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Theological Seminary, 


sec #11,110 

Smith, Adani, 1723-1790. 

Theory of moral sentmients, or, An essa\ 

iovvards an analysts of the principles by vvi 





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O F 


O R, 



An Analysis of the Principles by which Men naturally 

judge concerning the Conduct and Character, firft of 

their Neighbours, and afterwards of themselves. 



O N T H E 



B V ADAM S M I T H, L. L. D. F. R. S. 

Formerly ProfefTor of Philofophy in the Unlverfity of Glafgow j and Author 
of the Nature and Caufe of the Wealth of Nations. 



Printed for J. Beat ty and C. Jackson, No. 32, Skinner-Row. 





F the Propriety of Adlion. 


Of therenfeof propriety Page i. 

Chap. I. Of Sympathy ibid. 

Chap. II. Of the P leaf tire of mutual Sympathy ^ 

Chap. III. Of the manner m which we judge of the 
propriety or impropriety of the affedions of other 
men^ by their concord or dijfonance with our own 14: 

Chap. IV. 'The fame fubje^l continued 19 

Chap. V. Of the amiable and refpe^able virtues 27 


Of the degrees of the different palTions which are 
confident with propriety 33 

Chap. I. Of the pajfwns which take their origin from 
the body 3 4 

Chap. II. Of thofe pajfions which take their origin 
from a particular turn or habit of the imagination 4 1 

a 2 Chap. 


Chap. III. Of the unfocial pajfions Page 46 

Chap. IV. Of the focial pajfions 5/^. 

Chap. V. Of the felfifh pajfions 58 


Of the effedls of profperlty and adverfity upon the 
judgment of mankind with regard to the propri- 
ety of adion \ and why it is more eafy to obtain 
their approbation in the one ftate than in the 
other 4^ 

Chap. I. "That though our fympathy with Jorrow 
is generally a more lively fenfation than our fympathy 
with joy ^ it commonly falls much more fhort of the 
violence of what is naturally felt by the perfon prin- 
cipally concerned. ibid. 

Chap. il. Of the origin of ambition^ and of the dif- 
tin5iion of ranks 74 

Chap. III. Of the jloical phihjophy %^ 

PART ir. 

Of Merit and Demerit^ or of the objedts 
of reward and punifhment. 


Of the fenfe of merit and demerit ^"j 

Chap. I. 'That whatever appears to be the proper oh- 
jen of gratitude^ appears to deferve reward ; and 
that^ in the fame manner^ whatever appears to be the 
jA'oper objeH of rejentment^ appears to deferve pit* 
nijhnent 9^ 


Chap. II. Of the proper obje^s of gratitude and re- 
fentment P^gc io2 

Chap. III. ^hat where there is no approbation of the 
€ondti^ of the per/on who confers the benefit^ there is 
little fympathy with the gratitude of him who re- 
ceives it : and that^ on the contrary, where there is 
no difdpprobation of the motives of the per/on who 
does the mi/chief there is no fort of fympathy with 
the refent7nent of him who fuffers it \ 06 

Chap. IV. Recapitulation of the foregoing chapi- 
ters 1 09 

Chap. V. The anajyjis of the fenfe of merit and 
demerit j 1 2 

S E C T I O N 11. 

Of juftlce and beneficence i-^ 

Chap. I. Comparifon of thofe two virtues ibid. 

Chap. II. Of the fenfe of juflice^ of remorfe^ and of 
the confdoufnefs of merit 1 4p 

Chap. III. Of the utility of this conflitution of na^ 
litre j^z 


Of the influence of fortune upon the fentiments of 
mankind, with regard to the merit or demerit of 
adlions 14^ 

Chap. I. Of the caufes of this influence of for- 
turn 148 


Ch a r . II. Of the extent of this influence of fortune 

Page 154 

Chap. III. Of the final caufe of this irregularity of 
fentiments 167 


Of the foundation of our judgments con- 
cerning our own fentiments and conduft, 
and of the fcnfe of duty. 

Chap. I. Of the confcioufnefs of merited praife or 
blame 173 

Chap. II. hi what manner our own judgments refer 
to what ought to he the judgments of others : and 
of the origin of general rules 180 

Chap. III. Of the influence and authority of the 
general rules of morality^ and that they are juflly 
regarded as the laws of the Deity 207 

Chap. IV. /;; what cafes the fenfe of duty ought to hs 
the fole principle of our conduB ; and in what cafes 
it ought to concur with other motives 223 


Of theeftedof utility upon the fentiments of 

Chap. I. Of the beauty which the appearance of 
Utility beflows upon all the produBions of art ^ and of the 
.^Xt^nfive influence of this f pedes of beauty 237 


Chap. II. Of the bmuty which the appearance of 
utility beftows upon the chara£Jers and anions of men j 
and how far the -perception of this beauty may be re- 
garded as one of the original principles of approbation 

Page 250 


,i, Of the influence of cuftom and fafhion 
upon the fentiments of moral approbation 
and difapprobation. 

Chap. I. Of the influence of cuflom and fafhion upon 
Our notions of beauty and deformity. 261 

Chap. II. Of the influence of cuftom and fafhion 
upon moral fentiments ^ 27 1 


Of Syftems of Moral Philofopby. 


Of the queftlons which ought to be examined in a 
theory of moral fentiments 29 1 


Of the different accounts which have been given of 
the nature of virtue, 294. 

Ch a p . I. Of thofe fyjlems which make virtue confifi tn 
propriety ' ^q^ 


Chap. II. Of thofe fyftems which make virtue con- 
fift in prudence Page 3 1 i 

Chap. III. Of thofe fyftems which make virtue con- 
Jift in benevolence 321 

C H A p . I V. Of licentious fyftems 331 


Of the different fyftems which have been formed 
concerning die principle of approbation 345 

Chap. I. Of thofe fyftems which deduce the principle 
of approbation from felf-love 346 

Chap. II. Of thofe fyftems which make reafon the 

principle of approbation J51 

Chap. III. Of thofe fyftems which make fentiment 

the principle of approbation ^56 

S E C T I O N IV. 

Of the manner in which different authors have 
treated of the practical rules of morality 367 

Confiderations concerning the fir ft formation of languages^ 
and the different genius of original and compound 
languages 389 



Canfifling of three Sections. 

Of the Sense of Propriety. 

C H A P. 1. 

Of S Y M P A T H Y. 


OW felfifh foever man may be fuppofed, 
there are evidently fome principles in his nature, 
which intereft him in the fortune of others, and ren- 
der their happinefs necelTary to him, though he de- 
rives nothing from it, except the pleafure of feeing it. 
Of this kind is pity or compaflion, the emotion which 
we feel for the mifery of others, when we either fee 
it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. 
That we often derive for row from the forrow of 
©thcrs, is a matter of fad too obvious to require any 

B " inftances 

2 0/ Propriety. -Parti 

inilances to prove it ; for this fentiment, like all the 
other original paflions of human nature, is by no 
means confined to the virtuous and humane, though 
they perhaps may feel it with the moft exquifite fen- 
fibility. The greateft ruffian, the moft hardened 
violator of the laws of fociety, is not altogether 
without it. 

As we have no immediate experience of what 
other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner 
in which they are affeded, but by conceiving what 
we ourfelves fhould fell in the like fituation. Though 
our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourfelves 
are at our eafe, our fenfes will never inform us of 
what he fufFers. They never did and never can car- 
ry us beyond our own perfon, and it is by the ima- 
gination only that we can form any conception of 
what are his fenfations. Neither can that faculty 
help us to this any other way, than by reprefenting 
to us what would be our own, if we were in his cafe. 
It is the impreflions of our own fenfes only, not thofe 
of his, which our imaginations copy. By the ima- 
gination we place ourfelves in his fituation, we con- 
ceive ourfelves enduring all the fame torments, we 
enter as it were into his body and become in fome 
meafure him, and thence form fome idea of his fenfa- 
tions and even feel fomething which, though weaker 
in degree, is not altogether unlike them. His agonies, 
when they are thus brought home to ourfelves, when 
we have thus adopted and made them our own, be- 
gin at laft to affedl us, and we then tremble and 
fhudder at the thought of what he feels. For as to 
be in pain or diflrefs of any kind excites the mofl 
excefllve forrow, fo to conceive or to imagine that 
we are in it, excites fome degree of the fame emo- 

Sed. I. 0/ Propriety^ 3 

tion, ill proportion to the vivacity oi: dulnefs of the 

That this is the fource or oilr fellow-feeling for 
"themilery of others, that it is by changing places in 
fancy with the fufR^rer, that we come either to con- 
ceive or to be affedled by what he feels, may be de- 
Inonflrated by many obvious obfervations, if it 
lliould not be thought fufficiently evident of itfelf. 
When we fee a ilroke aim^d and juft ready to fall 
upon the leg or arm of another perfon^ we naturally 
^^^rink and draw back our own leg or our own arm ; 
and when it does fall, we feel it in fonie meafure^ 
and are hurt by it as well as the fufferer. The mob,, 
when they are gazing at a dancer on the flack rope, 
naturally writhe and twifl and balance their own bo- 
dies, as they fee him do, and as they feel that they 
themfelves mufl do if in his fituation. Perfons of 
delicate fibres and a weak conflitution of body, 
complain that in looking on the fores and ulcers which 
are expofed by beggars in the flreets, they are apt 
to feel an itching or uneafy fenfation in the corre^ 
fpondent part of their own bodies. The horror 
which they conceive at the mifery of thofe wretches 
affedts that particular part in themfelves more than 
any other ^ becaufe that horror arifes from conceive 
ing what they thernfelves would fuffer, if they really 
were the wretches whom they are looking upon, and 
if that particular part in themfelves was actually af- 
fected in the fame miferable manner. The very 
force of this conception is fufHcient, in their feeble 
frames, to produce that itching or uneafy fenfation 
complained of. Men of the mofl robufl make, ob- 
ferve that in looking upon fore eyes they often feel a 
very fenfible forenefs in their own, which proceeds 

• B z from 

4 Of ProprietV. tart \^ 

from the' fame reafon; that organ being in the 
ftrongeft man more dehcate than any other part oi 
the body is in the weakefl. 

Neither is it thofe circuriiftances only, which 
create pain or forrow, that call forth our fellow-feel- 
ing. Whatever is the pallion which arifes from any 
object in the perfon principally concerned, an ana- 
logous emotion fprings up, at the thought of his fi- 
tuation, in the breall of every attentive fpe6tator. 
Our joy for the deliverance of thofe heroes of tragedy 
or romance who interefl us, is as fmcere aa our grief 
for their diftrefs, and our fellow-feeling with their 
.mifery is not more real than that with their happinefs. 
We enter into their gratitude towards thofe faithful 
friends who did not defert them in their difficulties; 
and we heartily go along with their refentment againfl 
thofe perfidious traitors who injured, abandoned, oi* 
deceived them. In every paffion of which the mind 
of man is fufceptible, the emotions of the by-flander 
always correfpond to what, by bringing the cafe 
home to himfelf, he imagines, fliould be the fenti-* 
ments of the fufferer* 

Pity and compafTion are w^ords appropriated to 
fignify our fellow-feeling with the forrow of others. 
Sympathy, though its meaning was, perhaps, origi- 
nally the fame, may now, however, without much 
impropriety, be made ufe of to denote our fellow- 
feeling with any paflion whatever. 

Upon fome occafions fympathy may feem to 
arlfe merely from the view of a certain emotion in 
another perfon. The paflions, upon fome occafions, 
may feem to be transfufed from one man to another, 


Sec\. I. 0/ Propriety, 5 

inftantaneoufly, and antecedent to any knowledge 
of what excited them in the perfon principally con- 
cerned. Grief and joy, for example, ftrongly ex- 
preiTed in the look and geftures of any one, at once 
affed the fpedator with fome degree of a like painful 
or agreeable emotion, A fmiling face is, to every 
body that fees it, a chearful objed ; as a forrowful 
countenance, on the other hand, is a melan^choly 

This, however, does not hold univerfally, or with 
regard to every pallion. There are fome paflions of 
v/hich the exprellions excite no fort of fympathy, 
but before we are acquainted with what gave occa- 
fion to them, ferve rather to difgufh and provoke us 
againfl them. The furious behaviour of an angry 
man is more likely to exafperate us againfl: himfelf 
than againfk his enemies. As we are unacquainted 
with his provocation, we cannot bring his cafe home 
to ourfelves, nor conceive any thing like the palTions 
which it excites. But we plainly fee what is the fi- 
tuation of thofe with whom he is angry, and to 
what violence they may be expofed from fo enraged 
an adverfary. We readily, therefore, fympathize 
with their fear or refentment, and are immediately 
difpofed to take part againfl the man from whom 
they appear to be in fo much danger. 

If the very appearances of grief and joy infpire us 
with fome degree of the like emotions, it is becaufe 
they fuggefh to us the general idea of fome good or 
bad fortune that has befallen the perfon in whom 
we obferve them : and in thefe paflions this is fafii- 
cient to have fome httle influence upon us. The 
efFedts of grief and joy terminate in the perfon wh® 

B 3 fe©i 

6 0/ P R o p R' ! E T Y. Part 1, 

feels thofe emotions, of which the expreilions do 
not, like thofe of refentment, fuggefl to us the idea 
of any other perfon for whom we are concerned^ 
and whofe interefls are oppofite to his. The genera! 
idea of good or bad fortune, therefore, creates fome 
concern for the perfon who has met with it, but the 
general idea of provocation excites no fympathy 
with the anger of the man who has received it. Na- 
ture, it feems, teaches us to be more averfe to enter 
into this pallion, and, till informed of its caufe, to be 
difpofed rather to take part againft it. 

Even our fympathy with the grief or joy of ano-» 
ther, before we are informed of the caufe of either, 
is always extremely imperfed. General lamentati- 
ons, which exprefs nothing but the anguifh of the 
fufFerer, create rather a curiofity to inquire into his 
fituation, along with fome difpofition to fympathize 
with him, than any actual fympathy that is very fen- 
fible. The firfl quellion which we afk is, V/hat 
has befallen you ? Till this be anfwered, tho* we 
^reuneafy both from the vague idea of his misfor- 
tune, and (lill more from torturing ourfelves witl^ 
conjedures about what it niay be, yet our fellow- 
feeling is not very confiderable. 

Sympathy, therefore, does not arife fo much fron> 
the view of the paflion, as from that of the fituatioq 
which excites it. We fometimes feel for another, 
a paflion of which he himfelf feems to be altogether 
incapable j becaufe when we put ourfelves in his 
cafe, that palfion arifes in our bread from the ima- 
gination, though it does not in his from the reality. 
We blufh for the impudence and rudenefs of ano- 
ther, though he liimfelf appears to have no fenfe of 


^e(5l. I. 0/ P R o PR I E T y. '^ 

the impropriety of his own behaviour ; becaufe we 
"cannot help feeling with what confufion we ourfelves 
fhoiild be covered, had we behaved in fo abfurd a 

Of all the calamities to which the condition of 
mortality expofes mankind, the lofs of reafon ap- 
pears, to thofe who have the leall fpark of humanity, 
by far the mofl dreadful, and they behold that laft 
ftage of human wretchednefs with deeper commi- 
feration than any other. But the poor wretch, who 
is in it, laughs and fmgs perhaps, and is altogether 
infenfible of his own mifery. The anguifh which 
humanity feels, therefore, at the fight of fuch an 
objecl:, cannot be the refleclion of any fentiment of 
the fufferer. The compalfion of the fpedtator 
muft arife altogether from the confideration of what 
he himfelf would feel if he was reduced to the fame 
unhappy fituation, and, what perhaps is impofTible, 
was at the fame time able to regard it with his pre- 
fent reafon andjudgment. 

What are the pangs of a mother when fhe hears 
the moanings of her infant that during the agony of 
difeafe cannot exprefs what it feels ? In her idea of 
what it fuffers, fhe joins, to its real helplefTnefs, 
her own confcioufnefs of that helpleflhefs, and her 
9wn terrors for the unknown confequences of its 
aiforder ; and out of all thefe, forms, for her own 
forrow, the mofl complete image of mifery and 
diftrefs. The infant, however, feels only the un- 
cafmefs of the prefent inftant, which can never be 
great. With regard to the future it is perfedtly fe- 
cure, and in its thoughtlefihefs and want of fore- 
fight poiTeffes an antidote againft: fear and anxiety, 

B 4 the 

8 0/ P R a p R I E T Y. Part f, 

the great tormentors of the human bread, from 
which reafon and philofophy will in vain at- 
tempt to defend it when it grows up to a 

We fympathize even with the dead, and over- 
looking what is of real importance in their iltuation, 
that awful futurity which awaits them, we are 
chiefly afFedted by thofe circumftances which flrike 
our fenfes, but can have no influence vipon their 
happinefs. It is miferable, we think, depriv- 
ed of the light of the fun ; to be fhut out frorn life 
and converfation ; to be laid in the cold grave, a 
prey to corruption and the reptiles of the earth ; 
to be no more thought of in this world, but to b^ 
obliterated in a little time from the affections and 
almoft from the memory of their deareft frienda 
and relations. Surely, we imagine, we can never 
feel too much for thofe who have fuffered fo dreads 
ful a calamity. The tribute of our fellow-feeling 
feems doubly due to them now, when they are ir^ 
danger of being forgot by every body ; and, by 
the vain honours which we pay to their me- 
mory, we endeavour, for our own mifery, ar- 
tificially to keep alive our melancholy remem- 
brance of their misfortune. That our fymr 
pathy can afford them no confolation feems to he 
an addition to their calamiity ; and to think that all. 
we can do is unavailing, and that, what alleviates^ 
all other diftrefs, the regret, the love, and the la- 
mentations of their fi'iends, can yield no comfort to 
them, ferves only to exafperate our fenfe of their 
mifery. The happinefs of the dead, however, moil 
affuredly, is affeded by none of diefe circumfbances ; 
j]or is it the thought of theic things which can ever 


Sed. I. 0/ P R O P R I E T V. 4| 

diflurb the profound fecurity of their repofe. The 
idea of that dreary and endlefs melancholy, which 
the fancy naturally afcribes to their condition, arifes 
altogether from our joining to the change which 
has been produced upon them, our own confciouf- 
nefs of that change, from our putting ourfelves in 
their fituation, and from our lodging, if I may be 
allowed to fay fo, our own living fouls in their inani- 
mated bodies, and thence conceiving what would 
be our emotions in this cafe. It is from this very 
illufion of the imagination, that the forefight of our 
own diilolution is fo terrible to us, and that the idea 
of thofe circumftances, which undoubtedly can give 
lis no pain when we are dead, makes us miferable 
while we are alive. And fropi thence arifes one of 
the mojft important principles in human nature, the 
dread of death, the great poifon to the happinefs, 
but the great rellraint upon the injuflice of man- 
J^ind, which, while it afflicts and mortifies the indi- 
vidual, guards and proteds the fociety. 


Of the Pkafure of mutual Sympathy, 


U T whatever may be the caufe of fympathy, 
or however it may be excited, nothing pleafes us 
more than to obferve in other men a fellow-feeling: 
with all the emotions of our own breaft ^ nor are 
we ever fo much fhocked as by the appearance of 
the contrary. Thofe who are fond of deducing all 
our fentiments from certain refinements of Celf-love, 


io 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. ~ Part i; 

think themfelves at no lofs to account, according to 
their own principles, both for this pleafure and this 
pain. Man, fay they, confcious of his own weak- 
nefs and of the need which he has for the aiTiflance 
of others, rejoices whenever he obferves that they 
adopt his own paflions, becaufe he is then affured 
©f that ailiftancc; and grieves whenever he ob- 
ferves the contrary, becaufe he is then aiTured of 
their oppofition. But both the pleafure and the pain 
are always felt fo inflantaneoufly, and often upon 
fuch frivolous occafions, that it feems evident that 
neither of them can be derived from any fach felf- 
interefted confideration. A man is mortified when^ 
after having endeavoured to divert the company, he 
looks round and fees that no body laughs at his jefls 
but himfelf. On the contrary, the mirth of the com- 
pany is highly agreeable to him, and he regards this 
correfpondence of their fentiments with his own as 
the greatefl applaufe. 

Neither does his pleafure feem to arife altogether 
from the additional vivacity which his mirth may 
receive from fympathy with theirs, nor his pain 
from the difappointment he meets with when he 
miffes this pleafure ; though both the one and the 
other, no doubt, do in fome meafure. When we 
have read a book or poem fo often that we can no 
longer find any amufement in reading it by our- 
felves, we can flill take pleafure iri reading it to a 
companion. To him it has all the graces of novel- 
ty ', we enter into the furprize and admiration which 
it naturally excites in him, but which it is no longer 
capable of exciting in us ; we confider all the ideas 
which it prefents rather in the light in which they 
appear to him, than in that in v/hich they appear 


Se(ft. I. (y P R O P R 1 E T Y. Xt 

to ourfelves, and we are amufed by fympa- 
thy with his amufement which thus enlivens our 
own. On the contrary, we (hould be vexed if he 
did not feem to be entertained with it, and we could 
no longer take any pleafure in reading it to him. 
It is the fame cafe here. The mirth of the company^ 
no doubt, enlivens our own mirth, and their filence, 
no doubt, difappoinis us. But tliough this may 
contribute both to the pleafure which we derive 
from the one, and to the pain which we feel from 
the other, it is by no means the fole caufe of either ; 
and this correfpondence of the fentiments of others 
with our own appears to be a caufe of pleafure, and 
the want of it a caufe of pain, which cannot be ac- 
counted for in this manner. The fympathy, which 
my friends exprefs with my joy, might, indeed, give 
me pleafure by enlivening that joy : but that which 
they exprefs with my grief could give me none, if 
it ferved only to enliven that grief. Sympathy, 
however, enlivens joy and alleviates grief. It en- 
livens joy by prefenting another fource of fatisfadi- 
on ; and it alleviates grief by infmuating into the 
heart almofl the only agreeable fenfation which 
it is at that time capable of receiving. 

It is to be obferved accordingly, that we are 
(lill more anxious to communicate to our friends 
our difagreeable than our agreeable paffions, that 
we derive ftill more fatisfa6lion from their fympa- 
thy with the former than from that with the latter, 
and that we are flill more fhocked by the want of it. 

How are the unfortunate relieved when they 
have found out a perfon to whom they can com- 
municate the caufe of their forrow ? Upon his fym- 

12 0/ P R p R I E T Y. Part L 

pathy they feem to difbiirthen themfelves of a part 
of their diflrefs : he is not improperly faid to ihare 

; it with them. He not only feels a forrow of the 
fame kind with that which they feel, but as if he 
had derived a part of it to himfelf, what he feels 
feems to alleviate the weight of what they feeL 
Yet by relating their misfortunes^ they in feme 
meafure renew their grief.. They awaken in their 
memory the remembrance of thofe circumtlances 
which occafion their affliclion. Their tears accord- 
ingly flow fafter thaa before, and they are apt to 
abandon ther^felves to all the weaknefs of forrow. 
They take pleafure, however, in all this, and, it is 
evident, are fenfibly relieved by It; becaufe the 
fweetnefs of his fympathy more than compenfates 
the bitternefs of that forrow, which, in order to 
excite that fympathy, they had thus enlivened and 
jenev/ed. The cruelleft infult, on the contrary, 
which can be offered to the unfortunate, is to ap- 
pear to make light of their calamities. To feem 
not to be affedted with the joy of our companions 
is but want of politenefs ; but not to wear a ferious 
countenance when they tell us their afflidions, is real 
and grofs inhumanity. 

I.ove is an agreeable, refentment a difagreeablc 
pafhon; and accordingly we are not half fo anxious 
ihat our friends fliould adopt our friendfliips, as 
that they fhould enter into out refentments. We 
can forgive them though they feem to be little af- 
fected with the favours which we may have receiv- 
ed, but lofe all patience if they feem indifferent 
about the injuries v/hich may have been done tons: 
nor are we lialf fo angry with them for not entering 
into our gratitude, as for not fympailiizing with our 


fSe^l. i ; 6/ P R T R I E T y'. 13 

lefentment. They can eafily avoid being friends 
to our friends, but can hardly avoid being enemies 
to thofe with whom we are at variance. We fel- 
dom refent their being at enmity widi the firft, 
though lipon that account we may fometimes affedt 
to make an aukward quarrel with them ; but we 
quarrel with them in good earneft if they live in 
friendllilp with the lafl. The agreeable pallions of 
love and joy can fatisfy and fupport the heart with- 
out any auxiliary pleafure. The bitter and painful 
emotions of grief and refentment more ftrongly re- 
quire the healing confclation of iympathj. 

As the perfon who is principally interefhed in any 
cv^nt is pleafed with our fympathy, and hurt by the 
want of it, fo we, too, feem to be pleafed v/hen wc 
are able to fympathize with him, and to be hurt 
when we are unable to do fo. We run not only to 
congratulate the fuccefsful, but to condole with the 
jTifilided ; and the pleafure which we find in the 
converfation of one whom in all the paflions of his 
heart we can entirely fympathize with, feems to do 
more than compenfate the painfulnefs of that for- 
rov/ with which the view of his fituation affedts us. 
On the contrary, it is always difagreeable to feci 
that we cannot fympathize with him, and inilead of 
being pleafed with this exemption from fympathetic 
pain, it hurts us to find that we cannot fhare his 
uneafmefs. If v/e hear a perfon loudly lamenting 
his misfortunes, which, however, upon bringing 
the cafe home to ourfelves, we feel, can produce no 
fuch violent effedt upon us, we are fnocked at his 
grief; and, becaufe we cannot enter into it, call 
it pufiilanimity and weaknefs. It gives us the 
fpjeen, on the other hand, to fee another too hap- 

14 Q/" P R o p R I E T Y. Part L 

py or too much elevated, as we call it, with any- 
little piece of good fortune. We are difobliged 
even with his joy, and, becaufe we cannot go along 
with it, call it levity and folly. We are even put 
out of humour if our companion laughs louder or 
longer at a joke than we think it defer ves ; that 
is, than we feel that we ourfelves could laugh at 


Gfthe manner in which we judge of the propriety or im-^ 
propriety of the affections of other men^ by their concord 
or diffonance with our own. 

WHEN the original paflions of the perfoil 
principally concerned are in perfedt con- 
cord with the fympathetic emotions of the fpedta- 
tor, they necellarily appear to this laft jufl and 
proper, and fuitable to their objeds ; and, on the 
contrary, when, upon bringing the cafe home to 
himfelf, he finds that they do not coincide with 
what he feels, they necelTarily appear to him unjuil 
and improper, and unfuitable to the caufes which 
excite therii. To approve of the pafTions of ano- 
ther, therefore, as fuitable to their objedts, is the 
fame thing as to obferve that we entirely fympathize 
with them ; and not to approve of them as fuch, 
is the fame thing as to obferve that we do not en- 
tirely fympathize with them. The man who re- 
fents the injuries that have been done to me, and 


Se<!t. I. 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. 15 

obferves that I refent them precifely as he does, ne- 

ceflarily approves of my refentment. The man 

whofe fympathy keeps time to my grief, cannot 

but admit the reafonablenefs of my forrow. He 

who admires the fame poem, or the fame picture, 

and admires them exadly as I do, mufh furely allow 

the juftnefs of my admiration. He who laughs at 

the fame joke, and laughs along with me, cannot 

well deny the propriety of my laughter. On the 

•contrary, the perfon who, upon thefe different oc- 

cafions, either feels no fuch emotion as that which 

I feel, or feels none that bears any proportion to. 

mine, cannot avoid difapproving my fentiments on 

account of their diffonance with, his own. If my 

animofity goes beyond what the indignation of my 

friend can correfpond to ; if my grief exceeds what 

his mod tender corapallion can go along with ; if 

my admiration is either too high or too low to tally 

with his own ; if I laugh loud and heartily when he 

only fmiles, or, on the contrary, only fmile when he 

laughs loud and heartily ; in all thefe cafes, as foon 

as he comes from confidering the objed:, to obferve 

how I am^ affected by it, according as there is more 

or lefs difproportion between his fentiments and 

mine, I muft incur a greater or lefs degree of his 

difapprobation : and upon all occafions his own 

fentiments are the ftandards and meafures by which 

"he judges of mine. 

To approve of another man's opinions is to adopt 
'thofe opinions, and to adopt them is to approve of 
them. If the fame arguments which convince you 
convince me likewife, I neceffariiy approve .of your 
convidion -, and if they do not, I neceifarily difap- • 
prove of it : neidier can I pofTibly conceive that I 


i6 0/ Propriety. Parti- 

fhould do the one without the other. To approve 
or difapprove, therefore, of the opinions of others 
is acknowledged, by every body, to mean no more 
tlian to obferve their agreement or difagreement 
with our own. But this is equally the cafe with 
regard to our approbation or difapprobation of the 
fentiments or palTions of others; 

There are, indeed, fome cafes in which we feerri 
to approve without any fympathy or correfpondence 
of fentiments, and in which, confequently, the fen- 
timent of approbation would feem to be different 
from the perception of this coincidence. A little 
attention, however, will convince us that even in 
thefe cafes our approbation is ultimately founded 
upon a fympathy or correfpondence of this kind. 
I fhall give an inftance in things of a very frivolous 
nature, becaufe in them the fjudgments of mankind 
are lefs apt to be perverted by wrongTyflems. We 
may often approve of a jell, and think the laughter 
of the company quite jufh and proper, though we 
ourfelves do not laugh, becaufe, perhaps, we are in 
a grave humour, or happen to have our attention 
engaged with other objeds. We have learned, 
however, from experience, what fort of pleafantry 
is upon rriofl occafions capable of rhaking us laugh, 
and we obferve that this is one of that kind. We 
approve, therefore, of the laughter of the company, 
and feel that it is natural and fuitable to its obje6t ; 
becaufe, though in our prefent mood we cannot eafily 
enter into it, we are fenfible that upon moft occa- 
fions we fhould very heartily join in it. 

The fame thing often happens with regard to all 
the other pafiions. A ftranger paffes by us in the 


Scdi. I. CyPROPRIETY. xy 

llreet with all the marks of the deepell afflidion 5 
and we are immediately told that he has jufl re- 
ceived the news of the death of his father. It is im- 
poflible that, in this cafe^ we fhould not approve of 
his grief. Yet it may often happen, without any 
defect of humanity on our part, that, fo far from 
entering into the violence of his forrow, we iLouid 
fcarce conceive the firll movements of concern upon 
his account. Both he and his fadier, perhaps, are 
intirely unknov/n to us, or we happen to he employed 
about other things, and do not take time to pivflure 
out in our imagination the different circumilances of 
diftrefs which mufl occur to him. We have learn- 
ed, however, from experience, that fuch a misfor- 
tune naturally excites fach a degree of forrow, and 
we know that if we took time to confider his fitua- 
tion, fully and in all its parts, we fhould, without 
doubt, mofl fmcerely fympathize with him. It is 
upon the confcioufnefs of this conditional fympathy, 
that our approbation of his forrow is founded, even 
in thole cafes in which that fympathy does not ac- 
tually take place ; and the general rules derived 
from our preceding experience of what our fenti- 
ments v/ould com.monly correfpond with, correct 
upon this, as upon many other occafion.s, the impro- 
priety of our prefent emotions. 

The fentiment or aiTedion of the Jieart from 
v/hich any adion proceeds, and upon which its v/hoie 
virtue or vice mufl ultimately depend, may be con- 
fidered under two different afpeds, or in tv/o diffe- 
rent relations; iirfl, in relation to the caufe which 
excites it, or the motive v/hich gives occafion to it; 
and fecondly, in relation to the end wliich it propofes, 
or the effedt which it tends to produce. 

C In 

iB 0/ Propriety. Parti. 

In the fuitablenefs or unfuitablenefs, in the pro- 
portion or difproportion which the aifedtion feems 
to bear to the caufe or object which excites it, con- 
fifts the propriety or impropriety, the decency or 
iingracefulnefs of the confequent action. 

In the beneficial or hurtful nature of the eflfeds 
which die affeClion aims at, or tends to produce, 
confifls the merit or demerit of the action, tlie qua- 
hties by which it is entitled to reward, or is deferv- 
ing of punifhrnent. 

Philofophers have, of late years, confidered chiefly 
the tendency of affedtions, and have given little 
attention to the relation v/hich they ftand in to tlie 
caufe which excites them. In common life, however, 
when we judge of any perfon's condudl, and of the 
fentiments v/hich directed it, we confliantly confider 
them under both thefe afpedls. When we blame in 
another the excefles of love, of grief, of refent- 
ment, we not only confider the ruinous etTecls 
which they tend to produce, but the little occafion 
which was given for them. The merit of his favou- 
rite, Vv'e fay, is not fo great, his misfortune is not fo 
dreadful, his provocation is not fo extraordinary, as 
to jiiftify fo violent a palTion. We fhould have in- 
dulged, we fayj perhaps, have approved of the vio- 
lence of his emotion, had the caufe been in any re- 
fped; proportioned to it. 

When we judge in this manner of any aue<flion, 
as proportioned or difproportioned to the caufe v/hich 
excites it, it is fcarce polfible. that we ihould make 
ufe of any other rule or canon but the correfpondent 
affection in ourfelves. If, upon hiingmg the. cafe 


Se6t. I. 0/Propri£ty, i^ 

home to our own breaft, we find that the fentiments 
which it gives occafion to, coincide and tally with 
our own, we neceflarily approve of them as propor- 
tioned and fuitable to their objeds; if other wife, 
we neceilarily difapprove of them, as extravagant 
^nd out of proportion. 

tvery faculty in one man is the meafure by which 
he judges of the like faculty in another. I judge of 
your fight by my fight, of your ear by my ear, of 
your reafon by my reafon, of your refentment by 
my refentment, of your love by my love. I neither 
have nor can have any other way of judging about 

CHAP. r/. 

The fame fubje^f. continued 


E may judge of the propriety or impropriety 
of the fentiments of another perfon by their corre- 
fpondence or difagreement w^ith our own, upon two 
different occafions ; either, firft, when the objedts 
which excite them are conlidcred without any pe- 
cuHar relation, either to themfelves or to the perfon 
whofe fentiments we judge of; or^ fecondly, when 
they are confidered as peculiarly atfedting one or 
©ther of us. 

C 2 T.Witli 

^o 0/ Pr o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

I. With regard to thofe objeds which are con- 
fidered without any peculiar relation either to our- 
felves or to the perfon whofe fentiments we judge 
of; wherever his fentiments intirely correfpond 
with our own, we afcribe to him the qualities of tafle 
and good judgment. The beauty of a plain, the 
greatnefs of a mountain, the ornaments of a build- 
ing, the expreffion of a picture, the compofition of 
a difcourfe, the condu6t*of a third perfon, the pro- 
portions of different quantities and numbers, the 
various appearances which the great machine of the 
iiniverfe is perpetually exhibiting, with the fecret 
wheels and fprings which produce them ; all the 
general fabjeCls of fcience and tafte, are what v/e 
and our companions regard, as having no peculiar 
relation to either of us. We both look at them 
from the fame point of vievir, and we have no oc- 
cafion for fympathy, or for that imaginary change 
of fituations from which it arifes, in order to pro-^ 
duce, with regard to thefe, the mod perfed harmony 
of fentiments and affedlions. If, notwithftanding, 
we are often differently affected, it arifes either from 
the different degrees of attention, which our diffe- 
rent habits of life allow us to give eafily to the feveral 
parts of thofe complex objects, or from the different 
degrees of natural acutenefs in the faculty of the 
mind to which they are addreffed. 

When the fentiments pf our companion coincide 
with our own in things of this kind, which are ob- 
vious and eafy, and in which, perhaps, we never 
found a fmgle perfon who differed from us, though 
we, no doubt, mufl approve of them, yet he feems 
to deferve no praife or admiration on account of 
them. But when they not only coincide with our 


Sedl. 1. 0/ Pr o p R I E T V. ai 

own, but lead anddired: our own; when in forming 
them he appears to have attended to many things 
which we had overlooked, and to have adjufted 
them to all the various circumilances of their objeds; 
we not only approve of them, but wonder and are 
furpiifed at their uncommon and unexpected ac- 
cutenefs and comprehenfivenefs, and he appears to 
deferve a very high degree of admiration and ap- 
plaufe. For approbation heightened by wonder and 
furprife, conflitutes the fentiment which is properly 
palled admiration, and of which applaufe is the na- 
tural expreflion. The decifion of the man v/ho 
judges that exquifite beauty is preferable to the 
groffeft deformity, or that twice tv/o are equal to 
four, mufb certainly be approved of by all the world^ 
but will not, furely, be much admired. It is the 
acute and delicate difcernment of the man of tafte, 
who diftinguiHies the minute, and fcarce perceptible,^ 
differences of beauty and deformity ; it is the com- 
prehenfive accuracy of the experienced mathemiati- 
cian, who unravels, with eafe, the moll intricate 
and perplexed proportions ; it is the great leader in 
fcience and tafle, the man who directs and condudts 
our own fentiments, the extent and fuperior juilnefs 
of v/hofe talents aftonifn us with wonder and fur- 
prife, who excites our admiration and feeins to de- 
ferve our applaufe : and upon this foundation is 
grounded the greater part of the praife v/hich is 
bellowed upon what are called the intelle«5lual 

The utility of thofe qualities, it may be thought, 
is what firil recommends them to us ; and, no doubt, 
the confideration of this, when we come to attend 
to it, gives them a new value. Originally, however, 

C -^. we 

g2 0/Propriity. Parti. 

we approve of another man's judgment, not as fome- 
thing ufeful, but as right, as accurate, as agreeable 
to truth and reality : and it is evident we attribute 
thofe qualities to it for no other reafon but becaufe 
we find that it agrees with our own. Ta^fle, in the 
fame manner, is originally approved of, not as ufe- 
ful, but asjufl, as delicate, and as precifely fuited to 
its objedt. The idea of the utility of all qualities of 
this kind, is plainly an after-thought, and not what 
firfl. recommended them to our approbation. 

2. With regard to thofe objects, which affed in 
a particular manner either ourfelves or the perfon 
whofe fentiments we judge of, it is at once more 
difficult to prcferve this harmony and correfpon- 
dencCj and at the fame time, vaftiy more important. 
My companion does not naturally look upon the 
misfortune that has befallen me, or the injury that 
has been done me, from the fame point of view in 
which I confider them. They affect me much 
more nearly. We do not view them from the fame 
ftation, as we do a pidure, or a poem, or a fyflera 
of philofophy, and are, therefore, apt to be very 
differently affeded by them. But I can much more 
jcafily overlook the want of this correfpondence of 
fentiments with regard to fuch indifferent objeds 
as concern neither me nor my companion, tliaii v/ith 
regard to what intereils m.e fo much as the misfor- 
tune that has befallen me, or the injury that has been 
done me. Though you defj^ife tliat piclure, or 
that poem, or even that f) flem of philofophy, which 
I admire, there is little danger of oiir quarrelling 
upon that account. Neidier of us can reafonably 
be much interefhed about them. Tliey ought all 
pf tlicm to be matters of great indiftereace to us 


Sedt. I. 0/ Propriety. 23 

both; fo that, though our opinions may be oppofite, 
our affections may ilill be very nearly the fame. 
But it is quite otherwife with regard to thofe objeds 
by which either you or I are particularly affected. 
Though your judgment in matters of fpeculation, 
though your fentiments in m.atters of taile, are 
quite oppofite to mine, I can eafily overlook this 
oppofition; and if I have any degree of temper, I 
may flill find fom.e entertainment in you: conver- 
fation, even upon thofe very fubjeCts. But if you 
have either no fellow-feeling for the misfortunes I 
liave rnet with, or none that bears any proportion 
10 the grief which diilrafts me ; or if you have either 
no indignation at the injuries I have fuftered, or 
none that bears any proportion to the refentment 
which tranfports me, v/e can no longer converfe 
upon thefe fubjedts. We become intolerable to one 
another. I can neither fupport your company, nor 
you mine. You are confounded at my violence 
and pullion, and I am enraged at your cold infenfi- 
bilirv and v/ant of feelint^. 

In all fuch cafes, that there may be fome corref- 
pondence of fentiments between the fpedtator and 
the perfon principally concerned, the fpeclator 
mufl, firfl of all, endeavour, as mucii as he can, to 
put himieif in the fituation of the other, and to bring 
home to himfelf every little circumftance of diflrefs 
which can pcfiibly occur to the fufferer. Kemuil 
adopt the v/hole cafe of his companion Vv-ith ail its 
minuteft incidents ; and ilrive to render as perfect 
as poilible, that imaginary change of fituation upon 
v/liich his fyrapathy is founded. 

After all this, however, the emotions of the fpec* 
tator will fltll be very apt to fall fnort of the violence 

C 4 of 

2,4. Of^ H o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

of what is felt by the fufferer. Mankind, though 
naturally fympathetic, never conceive, for what has 
befallen another, that degree of pallion which na- 
turally animates the perfon principally concerned. 
That imaginary change of fitnation, upon which 
their fympathy is founded, is but momentary. 
The thought of their own fafety, the thought that 
they themielves are not really the fufferers, contin- 
ally intrudes itfelf upon them ; and though it does 
Hot hinder them from conceiving a paffion fome- 
what analogous to what i§ felt by the fufferer, hin- 
ders them from conceiving any thing that approaches 
to the fame degree of violence. The perfon princi- 
pally concerned is fenfible of this, and, at the fame 
time pafiionately defires a more complete fympathy. 
He longs for that relief which nothing can afford 
him but the entire concord of the affedlions of the 
fpedators with his own. To fee the emotions of 
their hearts, in every refpedl, beat time to his own, 
in the violent and difagreeable paffions, conflitutes 
his fole confolation. Bat he can only hope to ob- 
tain this .by lowering his paffion to that pitch, in 
which the fpedlators are capable of going along 
with him. He mufl flatten, if I may be allowed 
to fay fo, the Iharpnefs of its natural tone, in order 
to reduce it to harmony and concord with the emo- 
tions of tliofe wlio are about him.. What they 
feel, v/ill, indeed, always be, in fome refpedts, dif- 
ferent from what he feels, and compaliion can never 
be exadly the fam.e with original forrow ; becaufe 
the fecret confcioufnefs that the clrangeof fituations, 
from which the fympathetic fentiment arifes, is but 
imaginary, not only lowers it in degree, but in fome 
ipie^fure, varies it la kind, and gives it a quite diffe- 

Sea. I. 0/ Propriety. 25 

rent modification. Thefe two fentiments, how- 
ever, may, it is evident, have fuch a correfpondence 
with one another, as is fufficient for the harmony of 
fociety. Though they will never be unifons, they 
may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or 

In order to produce this concord, as nature teaches 
the fpectators to affume the circumftances of the 
perfon principally concerned, fo fhe teaches this laft 
in fome meafure to ailume thofe of the fpedators. 
As they are continually placing themfelves in this 
fituation, and thence conceivmg emotions fimilar to 
what he feels ; fo he is as conftantly placing himfelf 
in theirs, and thence conceiving fome degree of that 
coolnefs about his own fortune, with v/hich he is feU" 
fible that they will view it. As they are conflantly 
confidering what they themfelves would feel, if they 
adually were the fuff erers, fo he is as conftantly led 
to imagine in what manner he would be affected if 
he was only one of the fpectators of his own fitu- 
ation. As their fympathy makes them look at it, 
in fome meafure, with his eyes, fo his fympathy 
makes him look at it, in {ome meafure, with theirs, 
efpecially when in their prefence and adting under 
their obfervation : and as the reflected palfion, which 
he thus conceives, is much weaker than the original 
one, it necellarily abates the violence of what he felt 
before he came into their prefence, before he began 
to recolleft in what manner they would be affected 
by it, and to view his fituation in this candid and 
impartial light. 


tS Of Propriety. Part L 

The mind, therefore, is rarely fo clifcLirbed, biit 
that the company of a friend will refhore it to fome 
degree of tranquillity and fedatenefs. The breafl 
IS, in fome meafure, calmed and compofed the mo- 
ment we come into his prefence. Wc are imme- 
diately put in mind of the light in which he wil} 
view our fituation, and we begin to view it ourfelves 
in the fame light ; for the effedl of fympathy is in- 
flantaneous. We expedt lefs fympathy from a com- 
mon acquaintance than from a friend : we cannot 
open to the former all thofe little circumflancesr 
which we can unfold to the latter : we aiTume, 
therefore, more tranquillity before him, and endea- 
vour to fix our thoughts upon thofe general out- 
lines of our fituation which he is willing to confider. 
We expert flill leis fympathy from an aifembly of 
flran^ers, and we afTume, therefore, ftill more tran- 
quillity before them., and always endeavour to bring 
down our paflion to thaf pitch, which the particular 
company we are in may be expeded to go along 
with. Nor is this only an aflumed appearance : 
for if we are at all maflcrs of ourfelves, the prefence 
of a mere acquaintance will really compofe us, fiil! 
more than that of a friend ; and that of an aifembly 
of ilrangers ilill more than that of an acquaint- 

Society and coverfation, therefore, are tlie m.oft 
powerful remedies for reiloring the mind to its 
tranquillitv, if, at any time, it has unfortunately loft 
it • as weil as the befl prefervatives of that equal 
and happy temiper, which is fo necefiary to fclf- 
fatisfadtion and ejijoyment. Men of r'^; ' rement and' 
fpeculation, who are apt to fit brooding at home 


Se6l. I. 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. 27 

over either grief or refentment, though they may 
often have more humanity, more generofity, and a 
nicer fenfe of honour, yet feldom poiTefs that equality 
of temper which is fo common among men of the 


Of the amiable and refpe^ahle virtues. 


PON thefe two different efforts, upon that 
of the fpedator to enter mto the fentiments of the 
perfon principally concerned, and upon that of the 
perfon principally concerned, to bring down his 
emotions to what the fpedlator can go along with, 
arc founded two different fets of virtues. The foft, 
the gentle, the amiable virtues, the virtues of candid 
condefcenfion and indulgent humanity, are founded 
upon the one : the great, the av/ful and refpectable, 
the virtues of feif-denial, of felf-government, of that 
command of the paihons which fubjedts all the 
movements of our nature to what our own dignity 
and honour, and the propriety of our own conduct 
require, derive their origin from the other. 

How amiable does he appear to be, whofe fym- 
pathetic heart feems to re-echo all the fentiments 
of thofe with whom he converfes, who grieves for 
their calamities, who refents their injuries, and re- 


2S 0/" P R o ? R r E T ¥. Part L 

joices at their good fortune ! When we bring home 
to Gurfelves the fituation of his companions, we 
€nter into their gratitude, and feel what confolatioii 
they muil derive from the tender fympathy of fo 
affedtionate a friend. And for a contrary reafon, 
how difagreeable does he appear to be, whofe hard 
and obdurate heart feels for himfeif only, but is alto- 
gether infenfible of the happinefsor mifery of others! 
We enter, in this cafe too, into the pain which his 
prefence mufl give to every mortal with whom he 
converfes, to thofe efpecially with whom v/e are 
moft apt to fympathize, the unfortunate and the in- 

On the other hand, what noble propriety and 
grace do we feel in the conduct of thofe who, in 
their own cafe, exert that recoUedtion and felf- 
command which conftitute the dignity of every 
pafiion, and which bring it down to what others, 
can enter into.^ We are difguiled with that clam.o- 
rous grief, which, without any delicacy, calls upon 
our companion with fighs and tears and importunate 
lamentations. But we reverence that referved, that 
filent and majeflic forrow, which difcovers itfeif 
only in the fwelling of the eyes, in the quivering of 
the lips and cheeks, and i-n the diftant, but affedling, 
coldnefs of the v/hole behaviour. It impofes th^ 
like filence upon us. We regard it with refpecflful 
attention, and watch with anxious concern over our 
whole behaviour, left by any impropriety we (liould 
diilurb that concerted tranquillity, which it requires 
fo great an effort to fapport. 

The infolence and brutality of anger, in the fame 
mariner when we indulge its tury wiili(3lit- check or 


Seek. I. Of Propriety. s^ 

reflraint, is, of all fabjects, the mofl deteflabie. 
But v/e admire that noble and generous refentment 
which governs its purfuit of the greateit injuries, 
not by the rage which they are apt to excite in the 
breafl of the fulTerer, but by the indignation which 
they naturally call forth in that of the impartial fpec- 
tator; which allows no word, no gefliure.^ to efcape 
it beyond what this more equitable fentiment would 
didcate; which never, even in thought, attempts any 
greater vengeance, nor defires to inflict any greater 
punilhment, than what every indifferent perfon 
would rejoice to fee executed. 

And hence it is, that to feel much for others and 
little for ourfelves, that toreflrain our felfifii, and to 
indulge our benevolent aifedtions, conflitutes the 
perfedion of human nature; and can alone produce 
amiong mankind that harmony of fentiments and 
pailions in which confifl their whole grace and pro- 
priety. As to love our neighbour as we love our- 
felves is the great lav/ of chnftianity, fo it is the great 
precept of nature to love ourfelves only as we love 
our neiglibour, or what comes to the fame thing, as 
our neighbour is capable of loving us. 

As tafte and good judgmenr, when they are con- 
fidered as qualities which deferve praife and admi- 
ration, are fuppofed to imply a delicacy of fentiment 
and an acutenefs of underilanding not commonly 
to be met with; fo the virtues of fenfibility and felf- 
comnoand are not apprehended to coniVil in the or- 
iiinary, but in the uncommon degrees of thofe qua- 
lities. Tl»e amiable virtue of humanity requires, 
fureiy, a fenfibility, much beyond what i.*-. poifeired 
by tlie rude vulgar of mankind The great and 


30 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

exalted virtue of magnanimity undoubtedly de- 
mands much more than that degree of felf-com- 
mand, which the weakeft of mortals are capable of 
exerting. As in the common degree of the intel- 
lectual qualities, there are no abilities ; fo in the 
common degree of the moral, there is no virtue. 
Virtue is excellence, fomething uncommonly great 
and beautiful, which rifes far above what is vulgar 
and ordinary. The amiable virtues confift in that 
degree of fenfibility v/hich furprizes by its exquifite 
and unexpedled delicacy and tendernefs. The aw- 
ful and refpedtable, in that degree of felf-command 
which aflonifhes by its amazing fuperiority over the 
moft ungovernable paffions of human nature. 

There is, in this refpe6t, a confiderable difference 
between virtue and mere propriety ; between thofe 
qualities and actions which deferve to be admired 
and celebrated, and thofe which fimply deferve to 
be approved of. Upon many occafions, to adl 
with the moil perfedt propriety, requires no more 
than that common and ordinary degree of fenfibility 
or felf-command which the moft worthlefs of man- 
kind are polTeffed of, and fometimes even that de- 
gree is not neceffary. Thus, to give a very low in- 
llance, to eat when we are hungry, is certainly, up- 
on ordinary occafions, perfedly right and proper, 
and cannot mlfs being approved of as fuch by every 
body. Nothing, however, Could be more abfurd 
than to fay it is virtuous. 

On the contrary, there may frequently be a con- 
fiderable degree of virtue in thofe adions, which 
fall fhort of the moft perfect propriety -, becaufe 
they may ftill approach nearer to perfedlion than 


SfeCt. I. Of Propriety. 31 

could well be expedted upon occafions iii which it 
was fo extremely difficult to attain it : and this is 
very often the cafe upon thofe occafions which re- 
quire the greateft exertions of felf-command. There 
iire fome fituation^ v/hich bear fo hard upon human 
nature, that tlie greatefl degree of felfrgovernment, 
which can belong to fo imperfedl a creature as man, 
is not able to fliile, altogether, the voice of human 
Vveaknefs, or reduce the violence of the pallions to 
that pitch of moderation, ia which the impariial. 
fped-lator can entirely ePxter into them. Though in 
thofe cafes, therefore, the behaviour of the fufferer 
fall lliort of the moil perfed: propriety, it may ftill 
deferve fome applaufe, and even in a certain {Q\\{^t^ 
iiTay be denominated virtuous. It may iiill mani- 
fefl fill effort of generofity and magnanimity of 
which the greater part of men are incapable ; and 
though it fails of <:.bfoiute perfection, it may he a 
much nearer approximation towards perfedtion, than 
what, upon fuch trying occafions, is commonly ei- 
t^ier to be found or to be expedited^ 

In cafes of this kind, when we are determining 
the degree of blame or applaufe which feems due to 
any adtion, we very frequently make ufe of two 
different fiandards. The firH: is the idea of com- 
plete propriety and perfeclion, which, in thofe .dif- 
£cult fituations, no human conduct ever did, or 
even can come up to ; and in comparifon v/ith 
xvhlch the actions of all men muft for ever appear 
blameable and imperfectt. 1'he fecond is the idea of 
that degree of proz^dmiity or difhance from this com- 
plete perfedion, which the ajltious of the greater 
part of men commonly arrive at, \¥hate<ver goes 
beyond this degree^ Iiqw far foeVitr It may be re- 

52 O/Tropriety. Part I. 

moved from abfolute perfedtion, feems to deferve 
apolaufe ; and whatever falls ihort of it, to deferve 

It Is in the fame manner thatr we judge of the 
produdtions of all arts which addrefs themfelves to 
the imagination. When a critic examines the work 
of any of the great maflers for poetry or painting, 
he may fometimes examine it by an idea of perfec- 
tion, in his own mind, which neither that nor any 
other human work will ever come up to ^ and as 
long as he compares it with this ftandard, he can 
fee nothing in it but faults and imperfedtions. But 
when he come to confider the rank which it ought 
to hold among other works of the fame kind, he 
neceffarily compares it with a very different ftandard, 
the common degree of excellence which is ufuaily 
attained in this particular art ; and when he judges 
of it by this new meafure, it may often appear to 
deferve the highefl applaufe, upon account of its 
approaching much ilearer to perfedion than the 
greater part of thofe works which can be brought 
into competition with it. 


f*'.?. ■ 

Sec'i. 2. Qf Profriety. 



Of the degrees of the different paflions which are 
Gonfiflent with propriety; 


A HE propriety of every paflion excited by ob- 
jects peculiarly related to ourfelveSj the pitch 
which the fpev^lator can go along with, mull lie, it 
IS evident, in certain mediocrity. If the pallion is 
too high, or if it is too low, he cannot enter into it. 
Grief and refentment for private misfortunes and in- 
juries may eafily, for example, be too high, and in 
the greater part of mankind they are fo. They 
may likewife^ though this more rarely happens, be 
too low. We denominate the excefs, weaknefs and 
fury : and v/e call the defedt, ftupidity, infenfibility, 
and want of fpirit. We can enter into neither of 
them, but are afloniihed and confounded to fee 

This mediocrity, however, in which the point ot 
propriety confifls, is different in different pallions. 
it is high in fome, and low in others. There are 
fon'ie paiTions which it is indecent to exprefs very 
llrongly, even upon thofe occafions, in which it is 

D acknowledged 

34 (yPRopRiETY. Part I, 

acknowledged that we cannot avoid feeling them 
in the highefl degree. And there are others of 
which the ftrongefl exprelTions are upon many oc^ 
cafions extremely graceful, even though the palfions 
themfelves do not, perhaps, arife fo heceflarily. 
The firft are thofe palTions with which, for certain 
reafons, there is little or no fympathy : the fecond 
are thofe with which, for other reafons, there is the 
greateft. And if we confider all the different paf- 
fions of human nature, we (hall find that they are 
regarded as decent, or indecent, juft in proportion 
as mankind are more or lefs difpofed to fympathize 
with them. 

CHAP. i. 

Of the pajjons which take their origin from the hody. 


,T is indecent to exprefs any flrong degree of 
thofe pafTions which arife from a certain fituation or 
difpofition of the body ; becaufe the company, not 
being in the fame difpofition, cannot be expedled 
to fympathize with them. Violent hunger, for ex- 
am.ple, though upon many occafions not only na- 
tural, but unavoidable^ is always indecent, and to 
eat voracioufly is univerfally regarded as a piece of 
ill manners. There is, however, fome degree of 
fympathy, even with hunger. It is agreeable to fee 
our companions eat with a good appetite, and all 


Eect. 2. 0/ P R o p R I E T y. 35 

expreOions of loathing are ofFenfive. THe difpofi- 
tion of body which is habituctl to a man in health, 
makes- his ftomach eafily keep time, if I may be 
allowed fo coarfe ati expreflion, with the one, and 
not with the other. We can fympathlze with the 
diflrefs which exceflive hunger occafions when we 
read the defcription of it in the journal of a fiege, 
or of a fea voyage. We imagine ourfelves in the 
fituation of the fufFerers, and thence readily con- 
ceive the grief, the fear and conllernation, which 
mufl necedarily diftratt them. We feel, ourfelves, 
fome degree of thofe paflio^s, and therefore fym- 
pathize with them : but as we do not grow hungry 
by reading the defcription, we cannot properly, 
even iri this cafe, be faid to fympathize with their 

It is the fame cafe with the pafllon by which Na- 
ture unites the two fexes. Though naturally the 
mofl furious of all pafllons, all flrong expreflions of 
it are upon every occafioii indecent, even between 
perfons in whom its moil complete indulgence is ac- 
knowledged by all laws, both human and divine, 
to be perfedly innocent. There feems, however, 
to be fome degree of fympathy even with this paf- 
fion. To talk to a woman as we fliould to a man 
is improper: it is expeded that their company 
fhould infpire us with more gaiety, more pleafanfry, 
and more attention ■ and an in tire infenfibility to 
the fair fex, renders a man contemptible in fome 
meafure even to the mcrl. 

Such is our averfion for all the appetites which 
take their origin from the body : all ilrong expref- 
fions of them are loathfome and difasireeable. Ac- 

D,2 ' cording 

o^e 0/ Propri E tif. Parti. 

cording to fome antient philofcplieVs, tkefe are the 
paliions which we Ihare in common with the brutes, 
and which having no connexion widi the charader- 
iflical qualities of human nature, are upon that ac^ 
count beneath its dignity. Bat there are many 
other paliions which we fhare in common with the 
brutes, fuch as refentment, rtatiu'al affedion, even 
gratitude, which do not, upon that account, ap- 
pear to be fo brutal. The true caufe of the peculiar 
difoufh which we conceive for the appetites of the 
body when we fee them in other men, is that we 
cannot enter into them. To the perfon himfelf 
who feels them, as foon as they are gratified, the 
obje<5l thait eXcited them ceafes to be agreeable *, 
even its prefence often becomes offenfive to him ; 
he looks round to no purpofe for the charm which 
tranfported him the moment before, and he can 
now as httle enter into his own pafiion as another 
perfon. When we have dined, we order the cd- 
vers to be removed ; and we (liould treat in the 
fame m.anner the obiedls of the rnofl ardent and 
pailionate defires, if they were the objeds of no 
other paflions but thofe v/hieh take their origin from 
the body. 

In the commafid of thofe appetites of the body 
confifls that virtue which is properly called tempe- 
rance. To reflrain them witliin thofe bounds, 
whicli regard to^ health and fortune prefcribes, is the 
part of priKience. But to confme them within thofe 
limits, which grace, whkh propriety, which de- 
hcacy, and modelly, require, is the oiuce of tem- 

2. It is for tlie fame reafon that to cry out with 
bodily pain, how intolerable foevcr, appears alwavti 


Se6l. 2. 0/^ P R o p R I E T Y. . 37 

unmanly and unbecoming. There is, however, a 
good deal of fympathy even with bodily pain. If, 
as has already been obferved, I fee a flroke aimed, 
and juft ready to fall upon the leg or arm, of anodier 
perfon, I naturally llirink aad draw back my ov/n 
leg, or my own arm ; and v/hen it does flill, I feel 
it in fome meaijire, and am hurt by it as well a-o the 
fufferer. My hurt, however, is, no doub^, excef- 
fively flight, and, upon that account, if he makes 
any violent out-cry, as I cannot go along with him, 
I never fail to defpife him. And diis is the cafe of 
all the pallions which take their origin from the body : 
they excite either no fympathy at all, or fuch a de- 
gree of it, as is altogether difproportioned to the 
Violence of what is felt by the fuft'erer. 

It is quite otherwife with thofe pallions which take 
their origin from the imagination. The frame of 
my body can be but little aiTe(^l;ed by the alterations 
which are brought about upon that of my compa- 
nion : but my imagination is more ducflile, and 
more readily alTumes, if J may fo^ the fliape and 
configuration of the imaginations of thofe with 
whom I am familiar. A difappointment in love, 
or ambition, will, upon this account, call forth more 
'fympathy than the greateft bodily evil. Thoie paf- 
fions arlfe altogether from the imagination. The 
perfon who has loll his whole fortune, if he is in 
health, feels nothing in his body. What he uifrers 
is from the imagination only, which reprefents to 
him the lofs of his dignity, negledt from his friends, 
contempt from his enemies, dependence, v/ant, and 
mifery, coming faft upon him ; and v/e fympathiiie 
with him more ilrongly upon this account, becaufe 
our imaginations can more readily mould themfehcs 

D 3 upon 


j^ 0/* Pr o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

upon his imagination, than bur bodies can pould 
themfelves upon his body. 

The lofs of a leg may generally be regarded as a 
more real calamity than the lofs of a miflrefs. It 
would be a ridiculous tragedy, however, of which 
the cataflrophe was to turn upon a lofs of that kind. 
A misfortune of the other kind, how frivolous fo- 
ever it may appear to be, has given occafion to ma- 
ny a fine one. 

Nothing is fo foon forgot ^s pain. The moment 
it is gone the whole agony of it is over, and the 
thought of it can no longer give us any fort of dif- 
turbance. We ourfelves cannot then enter into the 
anxiety and angulHi which we had before conceived. 
An unguarded v/ord from a friend will occafion a 
TTiore durable uneafinefs. The agony which this 
creates is by no means over with the word. What 
at firft difturbs us is not the objecjt of the fenfes, 
X but the idea of the imagination. As it is an idea, 
therefore, which occafions our uneaftnefs, till time 
and other accidents have in fome meafure effaced 
■J - it from our memory, the imagination continues to 
fret and rankle within, from the thought of it. 

Pain never calls forth any very lively fympathy 
unlefs it is accompanied with danger. We fympa- 
thize with the fear, though not with the agony of 
' the fufteier. Fear, however, is ^ pafiion derived 
altogedier fi'om the imagination, which reprefents, 
with an uncertainty and iluduatjon that increafes 
our anxiety, not what we really feel, but what v/e 
may hereafter poilibly fuffcr. The gout or the 
topth-ach, though exqiiifitely painful, excite very 


Seft. 2. 0/ P i^ o ? ?. I E T Y. 39 

little fympathy ; more dangerous difeafes, though 
accompanied with very little pain, excite the high- 

Some people faint and grow fick at the -fight of 
a chirurgical operation, and that bodily pain which 
is occafioned by tearing the flefh, feems, in them, 
to excite the moil excefiive fympathy. We con- 
ceive in a much more lively and 4iftin<^ manner, 
the pain which proceeds from an external caufe, t-ha-r^ 
we do that which arifes from an internal diforder. 
I can fcarce form an idea of the agonies of my 
neighbour when he is tortured with the gout, or the 
flone ; but I have the cleareft (j;oncepi:ion of what 
he muft fuffer from an inclfion, a wound, or a frac- 
ture. The chief cauie, however, why fuch objedls / 
produce fuch violent effedt^ upon us, is their novelty. / 
One who has b'eeii witnefs to a doiien difledions, 
and as many amputations, fees, ever after, all ope- 
rations of this kind with great indifference, and of- 
ten with perfe<^t infenfibility. Though v/e have 
read or feen reprefented more than live hundred 
tragedies, we fnall feidom fefil fo entire an abatement 
of our fenfibility to the obje^^t which they reprefent 
\o us. 

In fome of the Greek tragedies there is an attempt 
to excite compaliion, by the reprefentation of the 
agonies of bodily pain. Philodetes cries out and 
faints from the extremity of his fufferings. Hip- 
polytus and Hercules are both introduced as expir- 
ing under the feverefl tortures, which, it feeins, 
even the fortitude of Hercules was incapable of fup- 
porting. In all thefe cafes, however, it is not the 
pain which interefls us, but fome other circumilance. 

D 4 It 

40 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

It is not the fore foot, but the folitude, of Philoc- 
tetes which affedls us, and diffufes over that charm- 
ing tragedy, that romantic wildnefs, which is fo 
agreeable to the imagination. The agonies of Her- 
cules and Hippolytus are interefted only becaufe we 
forefee that death is to be the confequence. If thofe 
heroes were to recover, we fhould think the repre- 
fentation of their fufferings perfedly ridiculous. 
What a tragedy would that be of which the diflrefs 
confifled in a colic. Yet no pain is more exquifite. 
Thefe attempts to excite compaflion by the repre- 
fentation of bodily pain, may be regarded as among 
the greatefl breaches of decorum of which the Greek 
theatre has fet the example, 

The little fympathy which we feel with bodily 
pain is the foundation of the propriety of conflancy 
and patience in enduring it. The man, who under 
the fevereft tortures allows no weaknefs to efcape 
him, vents no groan, gives way to no palTion which 
we do not entirely enter into, commands our high- 

^ eft admiration. His firmnefs enables him to keep 
time with our indifference and infenfibility. We 
admire and entirely go along v/ith the magnanimous 
effort which he makes for diis purpofe. We ap- 
prove of his behaviour, and from our experience of 
the common weaknefs of human nature, we are fur- 
prifed, and wonder how he fhould be able to ad: fo 

\as to deferve approbation. Approbation, mixed 
and animated by wonder and furprife, conftitutes the 
fentiment which is properly called admiration, of 

'which, applaufe is the natural exprefuon, as has al- 
ready been obferved, 

C H A P. 

&t&, Z, 0/ Pr O P R I E T Y. ^ 

CHAP. 11. 

Of thofe pajfwns which take their origin from a farticiilaf 
mm or habit of the imagination. 

JZjVEN of the paflions derived from the imagi- 
nation, thofe which take their origin from a peculiar 
turn or habit it has acquired, though they may be 
acknowledged to be perfedtly natural, are, hoM^ever, 
but little fympathized with. The imaginations of 
mankind, not having acquired that particular turn, 
cannot enter into them ; and fuch pallions, though 
they may be allowed to be almofl unavoidable ia 
fome part of life, are always in fome meafure ridi- 
culous. This is the cafe with that ftrong attach- ; 
ment which naturally grows up between tv/o perfons 
of different fexes, who have long fixed their thoughts 
upon one another. Our imagination not having run 
in the fame channel with that of the lover, we can- 
not enter into the eagernefs of his emotions. If 
our friend has been injured, we readily fympathize 
with his refentment, and grow angry with ^'the very 
perfon with whom he is angry. If he has received 
a benefit, we readily enter into his gratitude, and 
have a very high fenfe of the merit of his benefador. 
But if he is in love, though we may think his paf- 
fion juil as reafonable as any of the kind, yet we 
never think ourfdves bound to conceive a paflion of 
the fame kind, and for the fame perfon for whom 
he has conceived it. The -paiiion appears to eve- 
ry body, butthe man who feels it, entirely difpro- 


42 0/ P R O P R I E T Yi Part I, 

portioned to the value of the objed; and love, 
though It is pardoned in a certain age becaufe wc 
know it is natural, is always laughed at, becaufe we 
cannot enter into it. All ferious and ftrong ex- 
preffions of it appear ridiculous to a third perfon ; 
and though a lover may be good company to his 
miftrefs, he is fo to nobody elfe. He himfelf is fen- 
fible of this; and as long as. he continues in his fober 
fenfes, endeavours to treat his own paiTion with rail- 
lery and ridicule. It is the only ftyle in which we 
care to hear of it; becaufe it is the only flyle ia 
which we ourfeh/es are difpofed to talk of it. We 
grow weary of the grave, pedantic, and long-fen- 
tenced love of Cowley and Propertius, who never 
have done with exaggerating the violence of their 
attachments; but the gaiety of Ovid, and the gal-^ 
Jantry of Horace, are always agreeable. {- 

But though we feel no proper fympathy with an 
attachment of this kind, though we never approach 
ieven in imaginatiori towards conceiving a pafllon 
for that particular perfqn, yet as we either have 
conceived, or may be difpofed to conceive, pafTions 
of the fame kind, we readily enter into thofe high 
hopes of happinefs which are propofed from its gra- 
tification, as well as into that exquifite dillrefs which 
is feared from its ^i^^Ppo'^^^^^nt. It interefls us 
not as a pailion, but as a fituation that gives occafion 
to other palfions which intereil us; to hope, to fear, 
and to diflrefs of every kind ; in the fame manner as 
in a defcription of a fea voyage, it is not the hunger 
which interefls us, but the diilrefs which that hunger 
occafions. Thvough we do not properly enter into 
the attachment of the lover, we readily go along 
with thofe expectations of romantic happinefs v/hich 


Secfi. 2." 0/ P R O P R I E T Y. ^ 

he derives frofn it. We feel how natural it is for 
the mind, in a certain fituation, relaxed with indo-* 
lence, and fatigued with the violence of defire, to 
long for ferenity and quiet, to hope to £nd them in 
the gratification of that paflion which diflradls it, 
and to frame to itfelf the idea of that life of pafto-» 
ral tranquillity and retirement which the elegant, the 
tender, and the pallionate Tibullus takes fo much 
pleafure in defcribing; a life like what the poets de-» 
fcribe in the Fortunate Iflands, a life of frrendfhip, 
liberty, and repofe -, free from labour, and froni 
care, and from all the turbulent palHons which atten4 
them. Even fcenes of this kind interefl us moft, 
when they are painted rather as what is hoped, than 
as what is enjoyed. The grolTnefs of that paffiori. 
which mixes with, and is, perhaps, the foundation 
of love, [difappears when its gratification is far ofF 
and at a diflance ; but renders the whole ofFenfiye, 
when defcribed as what is immediately poffelTed. 
The happy paflion, upon this account, interefls u<j 
much lefs than the fearful and the melancholy. 
We tremble for whatever can difappoint fuch natu- 
ral and agreeable hopes : and thus enter into all the 
anxiety, and concern, and diftrefs of the lover. 

Hence it is, that, in fome modern tragedies and 
romances, this paflion appears fo wonderfully inte- 
refling. It is not fo much the love of Caftalk) and 
Monimia which attaches us in the Orphan, as the di- 
ftrefs which that love occafions. The author who 
ftiould introduce two lovers, in a fcene of perfed^ 
fecurity, expreiTmg their mutual fondnefs for one 
another, would excite laughter, and not fyrapathy. 
If a fcene of this kind is ever admitted into a tra- 
gedy, it is always, in fome meafure, improper, and 


44 Of? R o p R ! E T Y. Part L 

is endured, not from any fympathy with iht paflion 
that is expreffed in it, but from concern for the 
dangers and difficulties with which the audience 
forefee that its gratification is likely to be attended. 

The rcferve which the laws of fociety impofe 
upon the fair fex, with regard to this weaknefs, ren- 
ders it more peculiarly diftrefsful in them, and, upon 
that very account, more deeply intereiling. We 
are charmed with the love of Phaedra, as it is ex- 
preffed in the French tragedy of that name, not- 
withftanding all . the exa'avagance and guilt which 
attends it. That very extravagance and guilt 
may be faid, ia fome meafure, to recommend it to 
us. Her fear, her fhame, her remorfe, her horror, 
her defpair, become thereby more natural and in- 
tcrefting. All the fecondary paffions, if I may be 
allowed to call them fo, which arife from the fitu- 
ation of love, become necelTarily more furious and 
violent : and it is with thefe fecondary pafiions only 
that we can properly be faid to fympathize. 

Of all the pafTions, however, which are fo ex- 
travagantly difproportioned to the value of their 
objects, love is the only one that appears, even to 
the weakeil minds, to have any thing in it that is 
either graceful or agreeable. In itfelf, firft of all, 
though it may be ridiculous, it is not naturally 
odious; and though its coiifequences are often fatal 
and dreadful, its intentions are feldom mifchievous. 
And then, though there is little propriety in the 
paflion itfelf, there is a good deal in fome of thofe 
which always accompany it. There is in love a 
ftrong mixlure of humanity, genercfity, kindnefs, 
friendfhip, efteem-, palTions with which, of all 


Sed. 2. 0/ Pr 1^ R I E t y. ^^ 

others, for reafons which (hall be explained imme- 
diately, we have the greatefl propenfity to fympa^ 
thize, even notwidi^flanding we are fenfible that 
they are^ i?i Tome meafure, exceflive. The fympathy 
which we feel with them, renders the pailion which 
they accompany lefs difagreeable^ and fupports it 
in our imagination, notwithflanding all the vices 
which commonly go along with it; though in the 
one fex it neceifarily leads to ruin and infamy; and 
though in the other, where it is apprehended to be 
kail fatal, it is almofl always attended with an in- 
capacity for labour, a negledl of duty, a contempt 
of fame, and even of common reputation. Not- 
withflanding all this, the degree of fenfibihty and 
generofity with which it is fuppofed to be accom- 
panied, renders it to many the objedl of vanity; 
and they are fond of appearing capable of feeling 
what would do them no honour if they had really 
felt it. 

It Is for a reafon of the fame kind, that a certain \ 
referve is neceffary when we talk of our own friends, \ 
our own iludies, our own profefilons. All thefe are 
objedls vyhich we cannot exped fhould interefl our 
companions in the fame degree in which they interelt 
tis. And it is for want of this referve, that the one 
half of mankind make bad company to the other. 
A philofopher is company to a philofopher only; ^ 
the member of a club, to his own little knot of 


46 Cy P R o p R I E T Y. Part h 

CHAP. llf. 

Of tbe unfocial pajftons. 

X HERE is another fet of paffions," which though 
derived from the imagination^ yet before we can 
enter into them, or regard them as graceful or be- 
coming, mufl always be brought down to a pitch 
much lower than that to which undifciplined na- 
ture would raife them. Thefe are hatred and re- 
fentment, with all their different modifications. 
With regard to all fuch pafTions, our fympathy is 
divided between the perfon who feels them and the 
perfon who is the objedl of them. The interefts of 
thefe two are diredly oppofite. What our fympa- 
thy with the perfon who feels them would prompt 
us to wifh for, our fellow-feeling with the other 
Ivould lead us to fear. As they are both men, we 
are concerned for both, and our fear for what the 
one may fuffer, damps our refentment for what the 
other has fuftered. Our fympathy, therefore, with 
the man who has received the provocation, neceffa- 
riiy falls (hort of the pafTion which naturally animates 
him, not only upon account of thofe general caufes 
which render all fympathetic paflions inferior to the 
original ones, but upon account of that particular 
caufe which is peculiar to itfelf, our oppofite fympa- 

Sedl. 2. 0/ P R o p ii t E T Y. 47 

thy with another perfon. Before refentment, there- 
fore, can become graceful and agreeable, it mult, 
be more humbled and brought down below that 
pitch to which it would naturally rife, than almoft 
any other pallion. 

Mankind, at the fame time, have a very flrong 
fenfe of the injuries that are done to another. The 
villain, in a tragedy or romance, is as much the ob- 
jed^ of oiir indignation, as the hero is that of our 
fympathy and affection. We detefl lago as much 
as we efheem Othello ; and delight as much in the 
punilhment of the one, as we are grieved at the di^ 
ftrefs of the other. But though mankind have fo' 
ilrong a fellow-feeling with the injuries that are 
done to their brethren, they do not always refent 
them the more that the fufferer appears] to refent 
them. Upon moft occafions, the greater his pa- 
tience, his mildnefs^ his humanity, provided it does 
not appear that he wants fpirit, or that fear was the 
motive of his forbearance, the higher the refentment 
againll the perfon who injured him. The amiable- 
nefs of the chara(5ter exafperates their fenfe of the 
atrocity of the injury, 

Thefe pallions, however^ are regarded as necelTary 
parts of the charadter of human nature. A perfon- 
becomes contemptible who tamely fits flill, and fub- ., 
mits to infults, without attempting either to repel or 
to revenge them. We cannot enter into his indif- 
ference and infenfibility : we call his behaviour mean- 
fpiritednefs, and are as really provoked by it as by 
the infolence of his adverfary. Even the mob rire 
enraged to fee any man fubmit patiently to afFrc «iits 
and ill ufige, Thi^y dejQre to fee this infolence re- 
fen tedv 

(yf Propriety. Part I. 

felted, and refented by the perfon who fufFers from 
it. They cry to him with fury, to defend, or to re- 
venge himfelf. If his indignation rouzes at laft, 
they heartily applaud, and fympathize with it. It 
enlivens their own indignation againll his enemy, 
■whom they rejoice to fee him attack in turn, and 
are as reaHy gratified by his revenge, provided it is 
not immoderate, as if the injury had been done to 

But though the utility of thofe pafllons to the in^ 
dividual, by rendering it dangerous to infult or in- 
jure him, be acknowledged; and though their utility 
to the public, as the guardians of juftice, and of the 
equality of its adminillration, be not lefs confider- 
able, as fhall be fhewn hereafter-, yet there is ilill 
fomething difagreeable in the pailions themfelves, 
which makes the appearance of them in other men 
the natural objedt of cur avernon. The expreHion 
of anger towards any body prefent, if it exceeds a 
bare intimation that we are fenfible of his ill ufage, 
IS regarded not only as an infult to that particular 
perfon, but as a rudenefs to the whole company. 
Refpedl for them ought to have reftrained us from 
mving way to fo boiflerous and offenfive an emotion. 
It is the remote effeds of thefe pailions which are 
agreeable; the immediate effeds are mifchief to 
the perfon againft whom they are direded. But it 
!s the inunediate, and not the remote effeds of ob- 
jeds which render them agreeable or difagreenble 
,to the imagination. A prifon is certainly more 
U'Tefiil to the public than a palace; and the p's^rfon 
wiHo founds the one is generally direded by a much 
jufl'er fpirit of patriotlfm, than he,v/ho builds the 
other. , J^ur the immediate effeds of a prifon, the 


Sedt. 2. Of F R O.P .R I E T Y. ^ 

confinement of the wretches fhut up in It, are dif- 
agreeabie ; and the imagination either does not take 
time to trace out the remote ones, or fees them at 
too great a diflance to be much affedled by them. 
A prifon, therefore, will aiv/ays be a difagreeable 
objedl; and the fitter it is for the purpofe for which 
it was intended, it will be the more fo. A palace, 
•on the contrary, will always be agreeable ; yet its 
remote effeds may often be inconvenient to the 
public. It may ferve to promote luxury, and fet 
the example of the diiTolution of m.anners. Its im- 
mediate efFedts, however, the conveniency, the plea- 
fure, and the gaiety of the people who live in it, 
being all agreeable, and fuggeiling to the imagi- 
nation a thoufand agreeable ideas, that faculty ge- 
nei'ally refts upon them, and feldom goes further 
in tracing its more diflant confequences. Trophies 
of the inftruments of mufic or of agriculture, imi- 
tated in painting or in ftucco, make a common and 
an agreeable ornament of our halls and dining-rooms. 
A trophy of the fam.e kind, compofed of the inflru- 
ments of furgery<j of diilecting and am.putation- 
knives, of faws for cutting the bones, of trepanning 
inftruments, &c. would be abfurd and fhockins:. 
Inflruments of furgery, however, are always more 
finely polifhed, and generally more nicely adapted 
to the purpofes for which they are intended, than 
inflruments of agriculture. The remote effedts of 
them too, the health of the patient, is agreeable, 
yet as the immediate efiedl of them is pain and fuf- 
fering, the fight of them aKvays difpLafes us. In- 
ftruments of war are agreeable, though their imme- 
diate effed may feem to be in the fame manner pain 
and futTering. But then it is the pain and fuffering 
of our enemies, v.ith whom we have no fympathy. 

E With 

50 0/ P R o p R I E T Y." Part I. 

With regard to us, they are immediately connected 
with the agreeable ideas of courage, vidlory, and 
honour. They are themfelves, ^therefore, fuppofed 
to make one of the noblell parts of drefs, and the 
imitation of them one of the fineft ornaments of 
architedture. * It is the fame cafe with the qualities 
of the mind. The ancient ftoics were of opinion, 
that as the \vorld was governed by the all-ruling 
providence of a wife, powerful, and good God, 
every fmgle event ought to be regarded, as making 
a necelTary part of the plan of the univerfe, and as 
tending to promojie the general order and happinefs 
of the whole: that the vices and follies of mankind, 
therefore, made as neceffary a part of this plan as 
their wifdom or their virtue ; and by that eternal 
art which educes good from ill, were made to tend 
equally to the profpsrity and perfedtion of the great 
fyflem of nature. No fpeculation of this kind, 
however, how deeply foever it might be rooted in 
the mind, could diminifh oiir natural abhorrence for 
vice, whofe immediate efFedts are fo deftructive, and 
whofe remote ones are too diflant to be traced' by 
the imagination. 

It is the fame cafe with thofe palTions we have 
been jufl now confidering. Their immediate effedls 
are fo difagreeable, that even when they are moft 
juHly provoked, there is dill fomething about them 
which difgufts us. Thefe, therefore, are the only 
paffions of which the expreflions, as I formerly ob- 
ferved, do not difpofe and prepare us to fympathize 
with them, before we are informed of the caufe 
which excites them. The plaintive voice of mifery, 
when heard at a diflance, will not allow us to be 
indifferent about the perfon from whom it comes. 


Sedl. 2. 0/ Pr O P R I E T Y. £j 

As foon as it flrikes our ear, it interefls us in his for- 
tune, and, if continued, forces us almoft involun- 
tarily to fly to his affiilance. The fight of a fmiiing 
countenance, in the fame manner, elevates even the 
penfive into that gay and airy mood, which difpofes 
him to fympathize with, and (hare the joy which it 
exprelfes ; and he feels his heart, v/hich with thought 
and care was before that fhrunk and deprefled, in- 
ftantly expanded and elated. But it is quite other- 
wife with the exprefTions of hatred and refentment. 
The hoarfe, boiflerous, and difcordant voice of 
anger, when heard at a diftance, infpires us either 
with fear or averfion, We do not fly towards it 
as to one who cries out w^ith pain and agony. Wo- 
men, and men of weak nerves, tremble and are 
overcome with fear, though fenfible that themfelves 
are not the objeds of the anger. They conceive 
fear, however, by putting themfelves in the fitua- 
tion of the perfon who is fo. Even thofe of ftouter 
hearts are diilurbed; not indeed enough to make 
them afraid, but enough to make them angry; for 
anger is the pailion which they would feel in the fitu- 
ation of the other perfon. It is the fame cafe with 
hatred. Mere exprellions of fpite infpire it ao-ainfb 
no body, but the man v/ho ufes them. Both thefe 
paflions are by nature the objeds of our averfion. 
Their difagreeable and boiflerous appearance never 
excites, never prepares, and often diflurb.s our fym- 
pathy. Grief does not more powerfully engage 
and attradt us to the perfon in whom we obferve it, 
than thefe, v/hile v/e are ignorant of their caufe, 
difguft and detach us from him. It was, it feems 
the intention of Nature, that thofe rougher and more 
unamiable emotions, v/hich drive men from one 
another, fnould be lefs eafiiy and more rarely com- 

E 2 - When 


"< -w 

0/ Pr o p R I E T Y. Part L 

When muiic imitates the modulations of grief or 
joy, it either adlually infpires us with thofe paillons, 
or at kail puts us in the mood which difpofes us to 
conceive them. But when it imitates the notes of 
anger, it infpires us with fear. Joy, grief, love, 
admiration, devotion, are all of them palTions v/hich 
are naturally mufical. Their natural tones are all 
foft, clear, and m.elodious-, and they naturally ex- 
prefs themfelves in periods which are diflinguifhed 
by regular paufes, and which upon that account are 
eafily adapted to the regular returns of the correfpon- 
dent airs of a tune. The voice of anger, on the 
contrary, and of all the paffions v^/hich are akin to 
it, is harfh and difcordant. It periods too are all 
irregular, fometimes very long, and fometimes 
very fliort, and diilinguifned by no regular paufes. 
It is with difficulty, therefore, that mufic can imitate 
any of thofe paffions ; and the mAific' which does 
imitate them is not the mofl agreeable. A whole 
entertainment may confii^, without any impropriety, 
of the imitation cf the focial and agreeable paillons. 
It would be a flrange entertainment which confuled 
altogether of the imitations of hatred and refent- 


. If thofe palTions are difagreeable to the fpedlator, 
they are not lefs fo to the perfon v/ho feels them. 
Hatred and anger are the greatefl poifon to the 
happinefs of a good mind. There is, in the very 
feeling of thofe paifions, fomething hardi, jarring, 
and convulfive, fom.ething that tears and dillrads 
the breafl, and is altogether defcrudive of that com- 
pofure and tranquillity of mind which is fo necelTary 
to happinefs, and which is befl prom^oted by the 



Sedl. 2. (yPROPRIETY, ^^ 

contrary paflions of gratitude and love. It is nor. 
the value of v/hat they lofe by the perfidy and in- 
gratitude of thofe they live with, which the gene- 
rous and humane are mofl apt to regret. Whatever 
they may have loft, they can generally be very 
happy without it. What mofc diilurbs them is the 
idea of perfidy and ingratitude exercifed towards 
themfelves; and the difcordant and difagreeable 
paflions which this excites, conilitutes, in their own 
opinion, the chief part of the injury which they 
fuffer. . 

How many things are requifite to render the 
gratification of refentmicnt com.pleatiy agreeable, 
and to make the fpe6lator thoroughly fympathize 
with our revenge? The provocation mutl firil of 
all be fuch that we (liould become contemptible, and 
be expofed to perpetual infults, if v/e did not, in 
fome meafure, refent it. Smaller offences are al- 
ways better neglecfled; nor is there any. thing more 
defpicable than that froward and captious humour 
which takes fire upon every flight occafion of quar^ 
rel. We Ihould refent more from a knfe of the 
propriety of refentment, from a fenfe that mankind 
expecft and require it of us, than becaufe we feel 
in ourfelves the furies of tliat difagreeable paflion. 
There is no paliion, of which tlie human mind is 
capable, concerning whofe juilnefs we ought to be 
fo doubtful, concerning whofe indulgence we ought 
fo carefully to confult our natural fenfeof propriety, 
or fo diligently to confider what will be the fenti- 
ments of the impartial fpedtator. Magnanimity, or 
a regard to maintain our ov/n rank and dignity in 
fociety,. is the only motive v;hich can ennoble the 
expFeilions of this difagreeable paflion. This mo- 

E 3 tivC 

54 0/ Propriety. Parti. 

tive muft characterize our v/hole ftile and deport- 
ment. Thefe mufl be plain, open, and direct; 
determined without pofitivenefs, and elevated with-^ 
out infolence; not only free from petulance and 
low fcurrility, but generous, candid, and full of all 
proper regards, even for the perfon who has offend- 
ed us. It muft appear, in lliort, from our whole 
manner, without our labouring affededly to exprefs 
it, thatpaffion has not extinguifhed our humanity; 
and that if we yield to the dictates of revenge, it is 
with reludtance, from neceflity, and in confequence 
of great and repeated provocations. When refent- 
ment is guarded and qualified in this manner, it may 
be admitted to be even generous and noble. 

CHAP. rv. 

Of t'he Jocial pajfions. 

jLjL S it is a divided fympathy which renders the 
whole fet of pallions juft now mentioned, upon 
moft occafions, fo ungraceful and difagreeabie ; fo 
there is another fet oppofite to thefe, which a re- 
doubled fympathy renders almoft always peculiarly 
agreeable and becoming. Generofity, humanity, 
kindnefs, compafTion, mutual friendfhip and elteem, 
ail the focial and benevolent affedions, when ex- 
preffed in the countenance or beliaviour;, even to- 

Sed. 2. 0/ Pr OP R I E»T Y. 55 

wards thofe who are peculiarly conneded with our- 
felves, pleafe the indifferent fpedator upon almoft 
every occafion. His fympathy with the perfon who 
feels thofe paflions, exadly coincides with his con- 
cern for the perfon who is the objed of them. The 
intereft, which, as a man, he is obliged to take in 
the happinefs of this laft, enlivens his fellovz-feelino- 
with the fentiments of the other, whofe emotions are 
employed about the fame objed. We have always, 
therefore, the ftrongeft difpofition to fympathize 
with the benevolent affedions. They appear in 
every refped agreeable to us. V/e enter into the 
fatisfadion both of the perfon who feels them and 
of the perfon v^ho is the objed of them. For as to 
to be the object of hatred and indignation gives more 
pain than all the evils which a brave man can fear 
from his enemies ; fo there is a fatisfadion in the 
qonfcioufnefs of being beloved, which, to a perfon 
6f d^^licacy and fenfibility, is of more importance 
to happinefs than all the advantage which he can 
exped to derive from it. What charader is fo de- 
teftable as that of one who takes pleafure to fow 
diffeTxfion among friends, and to turn their mofi: ten- 
der love into mortal hatred ,? Yet wherein does the 
atrocity of this fo much abhorred injury confift? 
Is it in depriving them of the frivolous good offices 
which had their friendfhip continued, they mio-ht 
have expeded from one another .? It is in deorivinp- 
them of that friendfliip itfelf, in robbing them of 
each others affedions, from v/hich both derived fo 
much fatisfadion ; it is in diiturbing the harmony of 
their hearts, and putting an end to that happy com- 
merce which had before fubfifted between them. 
Thefe affedions, that harmony, this commerce, are 
felt, not only by the tender and the delicate, but by 

E 4 ' thf 

^6 0/ P R o p R I B T Y. Part t 

the rudeil vulgar of mankind, to be of more impor- 
tance to happinefs than all the little fervices which 
could be expeded to flow from them. 

The fentiment of love is, in itfelf, agreeable to 
the perfon vx^ho feels it. It fooths and compofes 
the breafl, feems to favour the vital motions, and 
to promote the healthful ftate of the human confti- 
tution; and it is rendered ftill more delightful by 
the confcioufnefs of the gratitude and fatisfa(Stion 
which it muft excite in him v/ho is the objedt of it. 
Their mutual regard renders them happy in one 
another, and fympathy, with this mutual regard^ 
makes them agreeable to every other perfon. With 
what pleafure do we lock upon a family, through 
the whole of v/hich reign mutual love and efteem^ 
v/here the parents and children are com.panions for 
one another, without any other difference than what 
is made by refpedlful affection orl the one fide, and 
kind indulgence on the other; v/here freedom and 
fondnefs, mutual raillery, and mutual kindnefs, 
ihow that no oppofition of intereil divides the bro- 
thers, nor any rivalfliip of favour fets the fillers at 
variance, and where every thing prefents us with 
the idea of peace, chearfulnefs, harmony, and con- 
tentmxcnt ? On the contrary, how uneaiy are v^^e 
made when we go into a houfe in which jarring 
contention fets one half of tliofe who dweil in it 
againft the other; v/here arnidft affeded fmooth- 
nefs and complaifance, fufpicious looks and fudden 
Harts of pailioii betray the mutual jealoufies which 
burn within them, and v/hich are every moment 
ready to burfl: cut through all the reftraints which 
the prefence of the company irnpofes ^ 


Sedt. 2. 0/ P R O P R I E T Y. 57 

Thafe amiable pallions, even when they are ac- 
knowledged to be exceflive, are never regarded v/ith 
averfion. There is fomething agreeable even in the 
weaknefs of friendfhip and humanity. The too 
tender mother, the too indulgent father, the too ge- 
nerous and afFedlionate friend, may fometimes, per- 
haps, on account of the foftnefs of their natures, be 
looked upon with a fpecies of pity, in which, how- 
ever, there is a mixture of love, but can never be 
regarded with hatred and averfion, nor even with 
contempt, unlefs by the mod brutal and v/orthlefs 
of mankind: It is always with concern, with fym- 
pathy and kindnefs, that we blame them for the ex- 
travagance of their attachment. There is a heip- 
lefTnefs in the charadter of extreme humanity which 
more than any thing interefls our pity. There is 
nothing in itfelf which renders it either ungraceful 
or difagreeable. We only regret that it is unfit for 
the world, becaufe the world is unworthy of it, and 
becaufe it mufl expofe the perfon who is endov/ed 
with it as a prey to the perfidy and ingratitude of 
infmuating falfhood, and to a thcufimd pains and 
uneafmelles, which, of all men, he the ieaft de- 
ferves to feel, and v/hich generally too he is, of all 
men, the leail capable of fupporting. It is quite 
otherwife with hatred and refentment. Too violent 
a propcnfity to thofe detellabie paffions, renders a 
perfon the objed of univerfal dread and abliorrence, 
who, like a wild beaft, ought, we think, to be hint- 
ed out of all civil fociety. 

C H A P. 

58 Of? R o p R I E T Y. Part I. 


Of the felfijb fajfwm 

ESIDES thofe two oppofite fets of paiTtons, 
the fecial and unfocial, there is another which holds 
a fort of middle place between them ; is never either 
fo graceful as is fometimes the one fet, nor is ever 
,*fo odious as is fometimes the other. Grief and 
! joy, when conceived upon account of our own pri- 
vate good or bad fortune, conftitute this third fet of 
paffions. Even when exceflive, they are never fo 
difagreeable as exceiiive refentment, becaufe no op- 
pofite fmpathy can ever interefh us againfl them : 
and when mofh fuitable to their objedts they are ne- 
ver fo agreeable as impartial humanity and jufl be- 
nevolence; becaufe no double fympathy can ever 
interefl us for them. There is, however, this dif- 
ference between grief and joy, that we are generally 
moft difpofed to fympathize with fmall joys and great 
forrows. The man, who, by fome fiidden revolu- 
tion of fortune, is hfted up all at once into a condi- 
tion of life, greatly above what he had formerly liv- 
ed in, may be aifured that the congratulations of his 
befb friends are not all of them perfedly fmcere. 
An upflart, though of the greatefl merit, is gene- 
rally difagreeable, and a fentiment of envy com- 
monly prevents us from heartily fympathizing with 
hisjoy. If he has any judgment he is fenfible of 


,.5e6t. 2. 0/ Propriety. ^^ 

this, and inflcad of appearing to be elated with his 
good fortune, he endeavours, as much as he can, 
to fmother his joy, and keep down that elevation of 
mind with which his new circumfhances naturally in- 
; fpire him. He afFedts the fame plainnefs of drefs, 
' and the fame modefty of behaviour, which becam.e 
him in his former flation.. He redoubles his atten- 
tion to his old friends, and endeavours more than 
ever to be humble, afliduous, and complaifant. And 
this is the behaviour which in his fituation we mofl 
approve of ; becaufe we expedl, it feems, that he 
fhould have more fympathy v/ith our envy and aver- 
fion to his happinefs, than we have with his happir 
nefs. It is feldom that with all this he fucceeds. 
We fufpedt the fmcerity of his humility, and he 
grows weary of this conftraint. In a little time, 
therefore, he generally leaves all his old friends be- 
hind him, fome of the meanefl of them excepted, 
who may, perhaps, condefcend to become his de- 
pendents : nor does he always acquire any new ones; 
the pride of his new connections is as m^uch affront- 
ed at finding him their equal, as that of his old ones 
had been by his becoming their fuperior : and it re- 
quires the mofh obftinate and perfevering modefty 
to atone for this mortification to either. He s-ene- 
rally grows weary too foon, and is provoked, by 
the fullen and fufpicious pride of the one, and by 
the fancy contempt of the other, to treat the firft 
with negled, and the fecond with petulance, till at 
laft he grows habitually infolent, and forfeits the 
efteem of all. If the chief part of happi- 
nefs arifes from the confcioufnefs of being beloved, 
as I believe it does, thofe fudden changes of for- 
tune feldom contribute much to happinefs. He is 
happieft who advances more gradually to greatnefs, 


6o Q/* P R o p R I E T Y. Part L 

whom the public deftines to every ilep of his pre- 
ferment long before he arrives at it, in whom, upon 
that account, when it comes, it can excite no ex- 
travagant joy, and with regard to whom it cannot 
reafonably create either any jealoufy in thofe he over- 
takes, or any envy in thofe he leaves behind. 

Mankind, however, more readily fympadiize 
with thofe fmallerjoys which flow from lefs impor- 
tant caufes. It is decent to be humble amidft p^reat 
profperity ; but we can fcarce exprefs too much fa- 
tisfaClion in all the little occurrences of common 
life, in the company with which we fpent the even- 
ing lad night, in the entertainment that was fet be- 
fore us, in what v/as faid and v/hat was done, in 
all the little incidents of the prefent converfation, 
and in all thofe frivolous nothings which fill up the 
void of human life. Nothing is more graceful than 
habitual chearfulnefs, which is always founded up- 
on a peculiar relifh for all the little pleafures v^hich 
common occurrences afford. We readily fympa- 
thize with it : it infpires us with the fame joy, and 
makes every trifle turn up to us in the fame agree- 
able afpedt in which it prefents itfelf to the perfon 
endowed with this happy difpofition. Hence it is 
that youth, the feafon of gaiety, fo eafily engages 
our afFedlions. That propenfity to joy which feems 
even to animate the bloom, and to fparkle from the 
eyes oF youth and beauty, though in a perfon of 
the iame fex, exalts, even the a5;ed, to a more 
joyous mood than ordinary. They forget, for a 
time, their infirmities, and abandon themfelves to 
thofe agreeable ideas and emotions to v/hich they 
have long been flrangers, but which, when the pre- 


Sed. 2. (y Prop R I E T Y. i^i 

fence of fo much happlnefs recalls them to their 
breail, take their place there, hke old acquaintance, 
from whom they are forry to have ever been parted, 
and whom they embrace more heartily upon ac- 
count of this long feparation. 

It is quite otherwife with grief. Small vexations 
excite no fympathy, but deep afflidion calls forth 
the greatefl. The man v/ho is made uneafy by eve- 
ry little difagreeable incident, who is hurt if either 
the cooif or the butler have failed in the leail article 
of their duty, w^ho feels every defe6t in the liighefl 
ceremonial of politenefs, whether it be ihewn to 
himfelF or to any other perfon, who takes it amifs 
that his intimate friend did not bid him sood-mor- 
rovv v/lien they met in the forenoon, and that his 
brother hummed a tune all the time he himfelf vvas 
telling a ilory ; who is put out of humour by the 
badnefs of the weather w^hen in the country, by the 
badnefs of the roads when upon a journe}^, and by 
the want of company, and dullnefs of all public 
diverfions when in town; fuch a perfon, I fay, 
though he fhould have feme reafon, will feldom 
meet with much fympathy. Joy is a pleafant emo- 
tion, and we gladly abandon ourfelves to it upon 
the ffightefl cccafion. We readily, therefore, fym- 
patliize v/ith it in others, whenever v/e are not pre- 
judiced by envy. But grief is painful, and the 
mind, even when it is our ov/n mJsfortune, natu- 
rally refills and recoils from it. We would endea- 
vour, either not to conceive it at all, or to fliake it 
off as foon as we liave conceived it. Our aveifion 
to grief will not, indeed, always hinder us from 
conceiving it in our own cafe upon very trifling oc- 


62 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. Part L 

cafions, but it conflantly prevents us from fympa- 
thizing with it in others when excited by the like 
frivolous caufes: for our fympathetic pafnons are 
always lefs irrefiftible than our original ones. There 
IS, befides, a malice in mankind, which not only 
prevents all fympathy with little uneafmeiTes, but 
renders them in fome meafure diverting. Hence 
the delight which we all take in raillery, and in the 
fmall vexation which Vv e obferve in our compa- 
nion, when he is pufhed, and urged, and teafed 
upon all fides. Men of the moft ordinary good- 
breedino- dilTemble the pain which any little inci- 
dent may give them ; and thofe who are more tho- 
roughly formed to fociety, turn, of their own ac= 
cord, ail fuch incidents into raillery, as they know 
their companions will do for them. The habit 
which a man, v^ho lives in the world, has acquired 
of confidering how every thing that concerns him- 
felf will appear to others, makes thofe frivolous ca- 
lamities turn up in the fame ridiculous light to him, 
in which he knows they will certainly be confidered 
by them. 

Our fympathy, on the contrary, with deep dif- 
trefs, is very flrong and very fmcere. It is unne- 
ceiTary to give an inflance. We weep even at the 
feigned reprefentation of a tragedy. If you la- 
bour, therefore, under any fignal calamity, if by 
fome extraordinary misfortune you are fallen into 
poverty, into difeafes, into difgrace and difappoint- 
ment ; even though your own fault may have been, 
in part, the cccafion, yet you may generally de- 
pend upon the fmcereft fympathy of ail your 
friends, and, as far as intereil aijd honour will per- 

Sea. 2. 0/ Propriety.' 6$ 

mit upon their kindeft affiftance too. But if your 
misfortune is not of this dreadful kind, if you have 
only been a httle baulked in your ambition, if you 
have only been jilted by your miftrefs, or are only 
hen-pecked by your wife, lay your account with 
the raillery of all your acquaintance. 


4^ Cy PnoPTirE T Y, Parti, 


Of the effedls of profj3erIty and adverfity upon the 
judgment of mankind with regard to the propriety 
of adion ; and why it is more eafy to obtain their 
approbation in the one ftate than in the other. 

C H A P. I, 

^hat though oiirfympathy ivithforrow is generally a more 
lively fenfation than our Sympathy with joy ^ it conimonly 
falls much morejhort of the violence of what is naturally 
felt by the perfon principally concerned, 

v/UR fympathy with forrow, though not more 
real, has been more taken notice of than our fym- 
pathy with joy. The word fympathy, in its mcfl 
proper and primitive fignification, denotes our fellow- 
feeling with the fufferings, not that with the enjoy- 
ments, of others. A late ingenious and fubtile phi-- 
lofopher thought it neceifary to prove, by arguments, 
that we had a real fympathy with joy, and that con- 
gratulation was a principle of human nature. No- 
body, 1 believe, ever thought it neceifary to prove 
that compaflion was fuch. 

Firil of all, our fympathy v/ith forrov/ is, in fome 
fenfe, more univerfal than that with joy. Though 


ScCt. 3. 0/ P R O P R I E T Y. ^5 

forrow is exceflive, we may ftill have fome fellow- 
feeling with it. What we feel does not, indeed, in 
this cafCj amount to that complete fympathv, to 
that perfedl harmony and correipondence of ifenti- 
ments which conftitutes approbation. We do not 
weep, and exclaim, and lament, with the fufferer. 
We are fenfible, on the contrary, of his weaknefs^ 
and of the extravagance of his paflion, and yet 
often feel a very fenfible concern upon his account. 
But if we do not entirely enter into, and go alono- 
with, the joy of another, we have no fort of reo-ard 
or fellow-feeling for it. The man who llcips and 
dances about with that intemperate and fenfelefs 
joy which we cannot accompany him in, is the object 
of our contempt and indignation. 

Pain befides, whether of mind or body, is a more 
pungent fenfation than pleafure, and our fympathy 
with .pain, though it fails greatly fhort of what is 
naturally felt by the fufferer, is generally a more 
lively and diftindt perception than our fympathy 
with pleafure, though this la ft often approaches 
more nearly, as I fhall fhow immediately, to the 
natural vivacity of the original palTion. 

Over and above all this, v/e often ftruggle to keep 
down our fympathy with the forrow of others. 
Whenever we are not under the obfervation of the 
fufferer, we endeavour, for our own fake, to fupprefs it 
as much as v/e can, and v/e are not always fuccefsfuL 
The oppofition which we make to it, and the reluc- 
tance with Vv'hich we yield to it, neceffarily oblige us 
to take more particular notice of it. But we never 
have occafion to make this oppofition to our f) m- 
pathy with joy. If there is any envy in the cafe, 

F we 

66 (y P R o p R I E T Y. Fart I, 

we never feel the lead propenfity towards it ; and 
if there is none, we give way to it without any re- 
ludtance. On the contrary, as we are always a- 
fhamed of our own envy, we often pretend, and 
fometimes really wifh to fympathize with the joy of 
others, when by that difagreeable fentiment we are 
difqualified from doing fo. We are glad, we fay, 
on account of our neighbour's good fortune, when 
in our hearts, perhaps, we are really forry. We 
often feel a fympathy with forrow when we wifh to 
be rid of it ; and we often mifs that with joy when 
we would be glad to have it. The obvious obferva- 
tion, therefore, which it naturally falls in our way 
to make, is that our propenfity to fympathize v/itli 
forrow mufl be very ftrong, and our inclination to 
fympathize with joy very weak. 

Notwithflanding this prejudice, however, I will 
venture to affirm, that, when there is no envy in the 
cafe, our propenfity to fympathize with joy is much 
llronger than our propenfity to fympathize with for- 
row ', and that our fellow-feeling for the agreeable 
emotion approaches much more nearly to the viva- 
city of what is naturally felt by the perfons princi- 
pally concerned, than that which we conceive for the 
painful one. 

Wehave fome indulgence for that exceflive grief 
which we cannot entirely go along with. We know 
what a prodigious effort is requifite before the fufFerer 
can bring down his emotions to compleat harmony 
and concord with thofe of the fpe^ator. Though 
he fails, therefore, we eafily pardon him. But we 
have no fach indulgence for the intemperance of 
joy ; becaufe we are not confcious that anj fuch vail 


Sed. 3. 0/ P R O P R I E T Y. 67 

effort is requifite to bring it down to what we can 
entirely enter into. The rnan who^ under the 
greatefl calamities, can command his forrow, feems 
worthy of the highelt admiration ; but he who, in 
the fulnefs of profperity, can in the fame manner 
mafter his joy, feems hardly to deferve any praife. 
We are fenfibie that there is a much wider interval 
in the one cafe than in the other, between what is 
naturally felt by the perfon principally concerned, 
and v/hat the fpedlator can entirely go along with. 

What can be added to the happinefs of the man who 
IS in heakh, who is out of debt, and has a clear 
confcience r To one in this fituation, all acceffions 
of fortune m.ay properly be faid to be fuperfluous • 
and if he is much elevated uDon account of them. 
it muft be the eifedl of the moil frivolous levity. 
This fituation, however, may very well be called 
the natural and ordinary ilate of mankind. No-t- 
withflanding the prefent mifeiry and depravity of the 
world, fo juilly lamented, this really is the flate of 
the greater part of mten. The greater part of men, 
therefore, cannot find any great difficulty in ele- 
vating themfelves to ail the joy which any accef- 
fion to this fituation can well excite in their com- 

But though little can be added to this -flate, mtich 
may be taken from it. Though between thi^ condi- 
tion and the highell pitch of human profperity, the 
Interval is but a trifle ; between it and the loweil 
depthof m.ifery thediflance is immenfeand prodigious. 
Adverfity, on this account, •neceiTarily depreffes the 
mind of the fafferer much more below its natural 
ilate, than profperity can elevate him above it. 
The fpeaaicr, therefore, mufl . fnd it much more 
difficult to fympathize entirely, and keep perfect 

F 2, time, 

68 (y P R o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

time, with his forrow, than thoroughly to enter in- 
to his joy, and muft depart much further from his 
own natural and ordinary temper of mind in the one 
cafe than in the other. It is on this account, that, 
though our fvmpathy with forrow is often a m.ore 
pungent fenfation than our fympathy with joy, it al- 
ways falls much more Ihort of the violence of what 
is naturally felt by the perfon principally concerned. 

It is agreeable to fympathize with joy ; and 
wherever envy does not oppofe it, our heart aban- 
dons itfelf with fatisfadtion to the higheft tranfports 
of that delightful fentiment. But it is painful to 
go along with grief, and we always enter into it 
*vith reludance *. When we attend to the repre- 
fentation of a tragedy, we flruggle againft that fym- 
pathetic forrow which the entertainment infpires as 
long as v.e can, and we give way to it at lafl only 
when v,e can no longer avoid it : we even then en- 
deavour to cover our concern from the company. 
If we fhed any tears, we carefully conceal them, 
and are afraid lefl the fpectators, not entering into 


*_ It has been obje6led to me that as 1 foun3 the fentiment of 
approbation, which is always agreeable, upon fympathy, it is in- 
coniiilent with my fydem to any difagreeable fymipathy. I 
anfwer, that in the fentiment of approbation there are two things to 
be taken notice of; firfl the fympathetic pallion of the fpectator ; 
and, fecondly, the emotion which arifes from his obferving the per- 
fe6t coincidence between this fympathetic paffion in himfelf, and the 
original palTion in the perfon principally concerned. This laft emo- 
tion, in which the fentiment of approbation properly confifts, is al- 
ways agreeable and delightful. The other may either be agreeable 
or difagrecible, according to the nature of the original paflion, whofe 
feature it muft always, in fome meafure, retain. Two founds I 
fuppofe. may, each of them, taken fmgiy, be auftere, and yet, if 
^ey are'perfeSt concords, the perceprion of their harmony and coia- 
-ideace mav be agreeable. 

Se6t. 5. 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. 59 

this excellive tendernefs, fhould regard it as efferai- 
nacy and weaknels. The wretch whofe misfortunes 
call upon our compallion feels with what reludta nee 
we are likely to enter into his forrow, and therefore 
propofes his grief to us with fear and hefitation : 
he even fmothers the half of it, and is ailiamed, 
upon account of this hard-heartednefs of mankind, 
to give vent to the fulnefs of hisafflidion. • It is o- 
thei wife with the man who riots in joy and fuccefs. 
Wherever envy does not interefl us againil him, he 
expects our compieatefi: fympathy. He does not fear, 
therefore, to announce himfelf with fhouts of exul- 
tation, in full conftdence that we are heartily dif- 
pofed to go along with him. 

Why fhould we be m.ore afnamed to v/eep than to 
laugh before company ? We may often have as real 
occafion to do the one as to do the other : But we al- 
ways feel that the fpeclators are more likely to go 
along with us in the agreeable, than in the painful 
emotion. It is always miferable to complain, even 
when we are oppreiTed bythe mofl dreadful calamities. 
But the triumph of victory is not always ungraceful. 
Prudence, indeed, would often advife us to bear pro- 
fperity with more moderation ; becaufe prudence 
would teach us to avoid that envy which this very 
triumph is, more than any thing, apt to excite. 

How hearty are the acclamations of the mob, 
who never bear any envy to their fiiperiors, at a 
triumph or a public entry } And how fedate and mo- 
derate is commonly their grief at an execution ? 
Our forrow at a funeral generally amounts to no 
more than aifedted gravity ; but our mirth at e. 
cbriflening or a marriage, is always from the heart, 
and without any affectation. Uponthefe, and a!l 
fuch joyous occafions, our fatisfaction, though not ib 

F 3 durable^ 

^o 0/ Pr o p R I E T Y. Part L 

durable, is often as lively as that of the perfons 
principally concerned. Whenever we cordially con- 
gratiilate our friends, which, however, to the dif- 
grace of human nature, we do but feldom, their 
joy literally becomes our joy: we are for the moment, 
as happy as they are : our heart fwells and over- 
flows with real pleafare : joy and complacency 
fparkle from our eyes, and animate every fea- 
ture of our countenance, and every geflure of our 

But, on the contrary, when we condole v/ith our 
friends in their afflictions, how little do we feel, in 
comparifon of what they feel ? We fit down b}" 
them, we look at them, and while they relate to us 
the circumfbances of their misfortune, we lillen 
to them with gravity and attention. But while their 
narration is every moment interrupted by thofe na- 
tural burfls of paillon which often" feem almofl to 
choak them in the midfl of it - how far are the Ian-, 
guid emotions of our hearts from keeping time to 
the tranfports of theirs ? We may be fenfible, at the 
fame time, that their pafTion is natural, and no. 
greater than what we .ourfelves might feel upon the 
like occafion. We may even inwardly reproach our- 
felves with our own want of fcnfibility, and per- 
haps on that account, work ourfclves up into an ar- 
tificial fympathy, which, however, when it is raifed, 
is always the fiighteil and moil tranfitory imagin- 
able i and generally, as foon as we have left the 
room, vaniihes, and is gone for ever. Nature, it 
feems, v/hcn fhe has ioadtd us v/ith our own for- 
rowG, thought tjiat tliey were enough, and there- 
fore did not command us to take any further fhare 
ill thofe of others, than what was neceffary to 
prompt us to relieve themf. 


St&L. 3. 0/ P R o p R i E T y . 71 

It is on account of this dull fenfibility to the af- 
ilidl:ions of others, that magnanimity amidfl great 
diffcrefs appears always fo divinely graceful. His 
behaviour is genteel and agreeable who can maintain 
his chearfulnefs amidfl a number of frivolous dif- 
aflers. But he appears to be more than mortal who 
can fupport in the fame manner the mofl dreadful 
calamities. We feel what an immenfe effort is re- 
quifite to filence thofe violent emotions which natu- 
rally agitate and diilract thofe in his fituation. 
We are amazed to lind that he can command him- 
felf fo intirely. His firmnefs, at the fame time, 
perfe6tly coincides with our infenfibility. He makes 
no demand upon us for that more exquifite de- 
gree of fenfibility which we find, and which we 
are mortified to find, that we do not poflefs. There 
is the mofl: perfed correfpondence between his fen- 
timents and ours, and on that account the mofl: per- 
fect propriety in his behaviour. It is a propriety too, 
which, from our experience of the ufual weak- 
nefs of human nature, we could not reafonably have 
expedted he fhould be able to maintain. We won- 
der with furprife and aflonifhment at that flrength 
of mind which is capable of fo nobk and generous 
an effort. The fentiment of compleat fympathy 
and approbation, mixed and animated with won- 
der and furprife, conditutes w^hat is properly called 
admiration, as has already been more than once 
taken notice of. Cato, furrounded on all fides by 
his enemies, unable to refill them, and difdainingto 
fabmit to them, and reduced by the proud maxims 
of that age, to the necelfity of defhroying him- 
felf ; yet never flirinking from his misfortunes, ne- 
ver fuppiicating with the lamentable voice of wretch- 
ednefs, thofe miferable fympathetic tears v/hich we 
are always (o unwilling to give ; but en the contrary, 

F 4 arming 

7^ CyPROPRiETY. Part L 

arming himfelf with manly fortitude, and the mo- 
ment before he executes his fatal refolution, giving^ 
with his ufual tranquillity, all neceflary orders for 
the fafety of his friends ; appears to Seneca, that 
great preacher of infenfibility, a fpedlacle which 
even the gods themfelves m.ight behold with pleafure 
and admiration. 

Whenever we meet, in common life, with any 
examples of fuch heroic magnanimity, we are al- 
ways extrem.ely atFedted. We are more apt to v/eep 
and fhed tears for fuch as, . in this manner, feem 
to feel nothing for themfelves, than for thofe who 
give way to all the weaknefs of forrow : and in this 
particular cafe, the fympathetic grief of the fpedla- 
tor appears to go beyond the original paflion in the 
perfon principally concerned. The friends of So- 
crates ail wept when he drank the lafl potion, while 
he himfelf exprelTed the gayefl and moft chearful 
tranquillity. Upon all fuch occafions the fpedator 
makes no effort, and has no occafion to make any, 
in order to conquer his fympathetic (onow. He is 
under no fear that it will tranfport him to any thing 
that is extravagant and improper ^ he is rather pleafed 
with the fenfibiiity of his own heart, and gives way 
to it Vv'ith complacence and feif-approbation. He 
gladly indulges, therefore, the rpoll melancholy 
views which can naturally occur to him, concerning 
the calamity of his friend, for whom, perhaps, he 
never felt fo exquifitely before, the tender and tearful 
pallion of love. But it is qjuite, olherwife with the 
perfon principally concerned. He is obliged as much 
as polTible, to turn away his eyes from v/hatever is 
either naturally terrible or difagreeable in his fitiia- 
tipn. Too ferious an attention to thofe circum- 
ftanceSj he fears, might make fo violent an im- 


Se£\;. 3, (y P R o p R I E T Y. -73 

preflion upon him, that he could no longer keep 
within the bounds of moderation, or render him- 
felf the objedt of the complete fympathy and ap- 
probation of the fpedtators. He fixes his thoughts^ 
therefore, upon thofe only which are agreeable; 
the applaufe and a4miration which he is about to 
deferve by the heroic magnanimity of his behaviour. 
To feel that he is capable of fo noble and generous 
an effort, to feel that in this dreadful fituation he can 
Hill adl as he would defire to a(ft, animates and tranf- 
ports him with joy, and enables him to fupport that 
triumphant gaiety which feems to exult in the vic- 
tory he thus gains over his misfortunes. 

On the contrary, he always appears, in fome 
meafure, . mean and defpicable, who is funk in 
forrow and dejedLion upon account of any calamity 
of his own. We cannot brinsc ourfelves to feel for 
him what he feels for himfelf, and v/hat, perhaps, 
we fliould feel for ourfelves if in his fituation : we, 
therefore, defpife him ; unjulily, perhaps, if any 
fentiment could be regarded as unjufl, to v/hich 
we are by nature irrefiltibly determined. The weak- 
nefs of forrow never appears in any refpedt agree- 
able, except when it arifes from v/hat we feel 
for others more than from what we feel for 
ourfelves. A fon, upon the death of an indulgent 
and refpectable father, may give way to it v/ithout 
much blame. His forrow is chiefly founded upon a 
fort of fympathy with his departed parent ; and we 
readily enter into this humane emotion. But if he 
fnould indulge the fame weaknefs upon account of 
any misfortune which affected him/felf only, he 
would no longer meet with any fach indulgence. 
If he fhould be reduced to beggary and ruin, if he 


j^ CyPROPRiETY. Part L 

fhould be expofed to the moll dreadful dangers, if 
he ftiould even be led out to a public execution, 
and there fhed one fmgle tear upon the fcafFold, 
he would difgrace himfeif for ever in the opinion of 
ail the gallant and generous part of mankind. Their 
companion for him, however, would be very ftrong, 
and very fmcere ; but as it would flill fall fhort of 
this exceflive weaknefs, they v/ould have no pardon 
for the man who could thus expofe himfeif in the 
^yes of the world. His behaviour would affetl them 
with fhame rather than with forrow ; and the d if- 
honour which he had thus brought upon himfeif 
would appear to them the moft lamentable circum-- 
fiance in his misfortune. How did it diigrace the 
memory of the intrepid Duke of Biron, v/ho had 
fo often braved death in the field, that he wept 
upon the fcaffoid, Vvhen he beheld theflate to vhich 
he was fallen, and remembered the favour and the 
glory from which his ov/n rafhnefs had fo unfor- 
tunately throv/n him ! 


Of the origin of ambition^ and of the difiin5lipn of 


1 T is becaafe mankind are difpofed to fympa- 
thize more entirely with our joy than vvilh our for- 
row, that we make parade of our riches, and con- 
ceal our poverty. Nothing is fo mortifying as to 


Sed. 3. 0/ Propriety. 75 

be obliged to expofe our diftrefs to the view of the 
public, and to feel, that though our fituation is 
open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal con- 
ceives for us tlie half of what we fuffer. Nay, it 
is chiefly from this regard to the fentiments ot 
mankind, that v/e purfue riches and avoid poverty. 
For to what purpofe is all the toil and buftle of 
this world ? what is the end of avarice and ambi-- 
tion, of the purfuit of weahh, of power, and pre- 
eminence? Is it to fupply the neceflities of na- 
ture ? The wages of the meaneft labourer can 
fupply thpm. We fee that they afford him food 
and cloathing, the comfort of a houfe, and of a fa^ 
mily. If we examine his oeconomy with rigor, we 
fhould find that he fpends a great part of tliem upon 
conveniencies, v/hich may be regarded as fuperflui- 
ties, and that, upon extraordinary occafions, he 
can give fomething even ^o vanity and dillin6lion. 
What then is the caufe of our averfion to his fitua^ 
tion, and why fhould-thofe who have been educated 
in the higher ranks of life, regard it as worfe than 
death, to be reduced to live, even without labour, 
upon the fame fimple fare v/ith him, to dwell un- 
der the fame lowly roof, and to be cloathed in the 
fame humble attire ? Do they imagine that their 
ftomach is better, or their fleep founder in a palace 
than in a cottage ? the contrary has been fo often 
obferved, and, indeed, is fo very obvious, though it 
had never been obferved, that there is no body ig- 
norant of it. From whence, then, arifes that e- 
mulation which runs through all the different ranks 
of men, and what are the advantages which we 
propofe by that great purpofe of human life v/hich 
we call bettering our condition ? To be obferved, 


^6 Cy Pr o p R I E T Y, Fart L 

to be attended to, to be taken notice of with fym-r 
pathy, complacency, and approbation, are ail the 
advantages which we can propofe to derive from 
it. It is the vanity, not the eafe, or the pieafure, 
which interefts us.. Eut vanity is always founded 
upon the belief of our being the objedl of atten- 
tion and approbation. The rich man glories in 
his riches, becaufe he feels that they naturally draw 
upon him the attention of the world, .and that 
mankind are difpofed to go along with him in all 
thofe agreeable emotions with which the advan- 
tages of his fituation f@ readily inlpire him. At 
the thouo:ht of this, hds heart feems to fwell 
and dilate itfelf within him, and he is fonder of 
his wealth upon this account, than for all the 
other advantages it procures him. The poor man, 
on the contrary, is alliamed of his poverty. He 
feels that it either places him out of the fight of 
mankind, or, that, if they take any notice of him, 
they have, however, fcarce any fellow-feeling with 
the mifery and diftrefs which he fuffers. He is 
mortified upon both accounts ; for though to be 
overlooked, and to be difapproved of, are things 
entirely different, yet as obfcurity covers us from 
the daylight of honour and approbation, to feel 
that we are taken no notice of neceffarily damps 
the moil agreeable hope, and difappoints the moil 
ardent defire, of human nature. The poor man 
goes out and comes in unheeded, anq when in the 
midft of a croud is in the fame obfcurity as if fhut 
up in his own hovel. Thofe hum.ble cares and 
painful attentions which occupy thofe in his fitua^ 
tion, afford no amufement to the diiTipated and the 
gay. They tuni^away their eyes from him, or tf 
the extremity of his diftreOs forces them to look 


Sed. 3. 0/ tPv O P R I E T Y. 77 

at him, it is only to fpurn fo difagreeable an objedl 
from among, them. The fortunate and the proud 
wonder at the infolence of human wretchednefs, 
that it fliouid dare to 'prefent itfelf before them, 
and with the loathfome afpe6l of its mifer}^ pre- 
lume to difturb the ferenity of their happinefs. The 
man of rank and diftin6l\on, on the contrary, is 
obferved by all the world. Every body is eager to 
look at him, and to conceive, at leail by fyrn- 
pathy, that joy and' exultation with which his 
circumftances naturally infpire him. His adions 
are the objedls of the public care. Scarce a word, 
fcarce a geiiure, can fall from him that is altoo-e- 
ther negle(::ted. In a great affemblyhe is the perfon 
upon whom all direct their eyes-, it is upon him that 
their pailions feem all to wait with expectation, 
in order to receive that movement and direction 
which he Ihall imprefs upon them ; and if his 
behaviour is not altogether abfurd, he has, eve- 
ry moment, an opportunity of intereiiing man- 
kind, and of rendering himfelf the objett of 
the obfervation and fellow-feeling of every body 
about him. It is this, which notwithilanding the 
reftraint it impofes, notwithilanding the iofs of li- 
berty with which it is attended, renders greatnefs 
the objedl of envy, and compenfates in -the opi- 
nion of m.ankind, all that toil, all that anxiety, all 
thofe mortifications v/hich mull be undergone in 
the purfait of it ; and what is of yet more con- 
fequence, all that leifare, ail that eafe, all that 
carelefs fecurity, which are forfeited for ever by the 

When Vv'e confider the condition of the great, 
in thofe delufive colours in which the imagination 
is apt to paint it, it feems to be alnioil the ab- 


^8 0/ P R o p R t E T Y. Part 1. 

ftradt idea of a perfedt and happy ft ate. It is the 
very fiate which, in all our waking dreams and 
idle reveries, we had fivetched out to ourfelves as 
the final objedt of all our defires. We feel, there- 
fore, a peculiar fympathy v/ith the fatisfadlion of 
thofe who are in it. We favour all their incli- 
nations, and forward all their wi flies. What 
pity, we think, that any thing fliould fpoil and 
corrupt fo agreeable a fituation ! We could even 
wifli them immortal -, and it feems hard to us, 
that death fliould at laft put an end to fuch per- 
fect enjoyment. It is cruel, we think, in Na- 
ture, to compel them from their exalted ftations 
to that humble, but hofpitable home, which flie 
has provided for all her children. Great King, 
live for ever 1 is the compliment, which after the 
manner of eaftern adulation, we fliould readily 
make them, if experience did not teach us its 
abfurdity. Every calamity that befals them, every 
injury that is done them, excites in the breail of 
the fped:ator ten times more compallion and re- 
fentment than he would have felt, had the fame 
things happened to other men. It is the misfor- 
tunes of Kings only which afford the proper fub- 
jecls for tragedy. They refemble, in this re^ 
fpect, the misfortunes of lovers. Thofe two fir na- 
tions are the chief which intereft us upon the 
theatre ; becaufe, in fpite of all that reafon and 
experience can tell us to the contrary, the pre- 
judices of the imagination attach to thefe two 
\ ftates a happinefs fuperior to any other. To dif- 
turb, or to put an end to fach perfed enjoy- 
ment, feems to be the moil atrocious of all in- 
juries. The ti'aitor who confpires againfl: the life 
of his monarch, is thouo;ht a si"eater monfter than 


Seel. 5. Of Pr o p r I e t y. 79 

any other murderer. All the innocent blood that 
was (hed in the civil wars, provoked lefs indig- 
nation than the death of Charles I. A Itranger 
to human nature, who faw the indifference of 
men about the mifery of their inferiors, and the 
regret and indignation which they feel for the 
misfortunes and fuiTerings of thofe above them, 
v/ould be apt to imagine, that pain muft be more 
agonizing, and the convulfions of death more ter- 
rible to perfons of higher rank, than to thofe of 
meaner fiations, - 

Upon this difpofition of mankind, to go along 
with all the paflions of the rich and the power ful, 
is founded the difiinclion of ranks, and the order 
of fociety. Our obfequioufnefs to our fuperiors 
more frequently arifes from our admiration for 
the advantages of their fituation, than from any 
private expectations of benefit from their good- 
will. Their benefits can extend but to a 'few ; 
but their fortunes intereft almoft every body. We 
are eager to alTiil them in compleating a fyftem 
of happinefs that approaches fo near to perfec- 
tion ^ and we defire to ferve them- for their own 
fake, without any other recompenfe but the va- 
nity or the honour of obliging them. Neither is 
our deference to their inclinations founded chiefly, 
or altogether, upon a regard to the utility of fuch 
fubmiiTioi;i, and to the order of fociety, which is 
beft fupported by it. Even v/hen the order of fo- 
ciety feems to require that we fhould cppofe them, 
we can hardly bring ourfelves to do it. That kings 
are the fervants of the people, to be obeyed, re- 
fifled, depofed, or punifhed, as the public con- 
veniency may require, is the dccliiiie of rfafon 
and philofopliy^ but it is not the ioi±i---jz of 


So (y P k o p R I E T Y. Part t 

Nature: Nature would teach, us to fubmit to 
them, for their own fake, to tremble and bow 
down before their exalted ftation, to regard their 
fmile as a reward fufficient to compenfate any 
fervices, and to dread their difpleafure, though 
no other evil was to follow from it, as the fe- 
verell of all mortifications. To treat them in 
any refped as men, to reafon and difpute with 
them upon ordinary occafions, requires fuch re-* 
foiution, that there are few men whofe magna- 
nimity can fupport them in it, unlefs they are 
iikewife aiTifled by familiarity and acquaintance. 
The ftrongeil motives, the mofl furious paiTions, 
fear, hatred, and refentraent, are fcarce fufficient 
to balance this natural difpofition to refpecSt them : 
and their conduci mufl, either juilly or unjuftly, 
have excited the highefb degree of all thofe paf- 
fions, before the bulk of the people can be brought 
to oppofe them v/ith violence, or to defire to fee 
them either punifhed or depofed. Even when 
the people have been brought this length, they 
are apt to relent every moment, and eafily re- 
lapfe into their habitual itate of deference to thofe 
whom they have been accilftomed to look upon 
as their natural fuperiors. They cannot (land the 
mortification of their m.onarch. Compallion foon 
takes the place of refentment, they forget all pafl 
provocations, their old principles of loyalty re- 
vive, and tliey run to re-eftabliili the ruined au- 
thoritv of their old mafter, with the fame vio- 
lence with which they had oppofed it. The death 
of Charles I. brought about the Refloration of the 
royal family. Companion for James II. when he 
vv'as feized by the populace in making his efcape 
on fh'p-board, had almoii: prevented the Re- 

Se(Sl. 3- 0/ Propriety. 8i 

volution, and made it go on more heavily than 

Do the great feem infenfible of the eafy price 
at v/hich they may acquire the public admira^ 
tion ; or do they feem to imagine that to them, 
as to other men, it muft be the purchafe either of 
fweat or of blood i By what important accom- 
plifhments is the young nobleman inftrudted to 
fupport the dignity of his rank, and to render 
himfelf worthy of that fuperiority over his fellow- 
citizens, to which the virtue of his anceftors had 
raifed them ? Is it by knowledge, by induflry, 
by patience, by felf-denial, or by virtue of any 
kind ? As all his words, as all his motions are 
attended to, he learns an habitual regard to every 
circumftance of ordinary behaviour, and fludies to 
perform all thofe fmall duties with the raoft ex- 
adt propriety. As he is confcious how much he 
is obferved, and how much mankind are difpofed 
to favour all his inclinations, he adts, upon the 
mod indifferent occafions, with that freedom and 
elevation which the thought of this naturally 
infpires. His air, liis manner, his deportment, all 
mark that elegant and graceful fenfe of his own 
fuperiority, Which thofe who are born to inferior 
(tations can hardly ever arrive at : thefe are the 
arts by which he propofes to make mankind more 
eafily fubmit to his authority, and to govern their 
inchnations according to his own pleafure : and 
in this he is feldom difappointed. Thefe arts, 
fupported by rank and pre-eminence, are, upon 
ordinary occafions, fufficient to govern the world. 
Lewis XIV. during the greater part of his reign, 
was regarded, not only in France, but over all 

G Europe, 

82 0/ Propriety. PartL 

Europe, as the moft perfect model of a great 
prince. But what were the talents and virtues by 
which he acquired this great reputation ? Was it 
by the fqrupulous and inflexible juflice. of all his 
undertakings, by the immenfe daggers and dif- 
ficulties with which they were attehded, or by 
the unwearied and unrelenting application with 
which he purfued them ? Was it by his extenfive 
knowledge, by his exquifite judgment, or by his 
lieroic valour ? It was by none of thefe qualities. 
But he was, firfl of all, the moft powerful prince 
in Europe, and confequently held the highefl rank 
among kings ; and then, fays his hiftorian, " he 
'' furpaffed all his courtiers in the gracefulnefs of 
" his fhape, and the majeftic beauty of his features. 
*' The found of his voice, noble and affedling, 
" gained thofe hearts which his prefence intimi- 
*' dated. He had a flep and deportment which 
" could fuit only him and his rank, and which 
" would have been ridiculous in any other per- 
** fon. The embarralTment which he occafioned 
" to thofe who fpoke to him, flattered that fecret 
" fatisfadion with which be felt his own fuperi- 
'' ority. The old officer, who was confounded 
" and faultered in afking him a favour, and not 
" being able to conclude his difcourfe, faid to him, 
*' Sir, your majefly, I hope, will believe that I 
** do not tremble thus before your enemies : had 
*' no difficulty to obtain what he demanded.'* 
Thefe frivolous accomplifnments, fupported by his 
rank, and, no doubt, too, by a degree of other 
talents and virtues, which feems, however, not 
to have been much above mediocrity, efl:ablifhcd 
this ■ prince in the elleem of his own age, and 
have drawn, even from poflerity, a good deal of 


Sedl. 3. 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. 83 

refpedl for his memory. Compared with thofe 
of his own times, and in his own prefence, no 
other virtue, it feems, appeared to have any me- 
rit. Knowledge, induflry, valour, and beneficence, 
trembled, were abafhed, and loft all dignity be- 
fore them. 

But it is not by accomplilhments of this kind, 
that the man of inferior rank muft hope to di- 
flinguifh himfelf. Politenefs is fo much the virtue ' 
of the great, that it will do little honour to any 
body but themfelves. The coxcomb, who imi* 
tates their manner, and affeds to be eminent by 
the fuperior propriety of his ordinary behaviour, 
is rewarded with a double fhare of contempt for his 
folly and prefumption. Why fhould the man, whom 
nobody thinks it worth while to look at, be very 
anxious about the manner in which he holds up his 
head, or difpofes of his arms while he walks through 
a room ? He is occupied furely with a very fuper- 
fluous attention, and with an attention too that 
marks a fenfe of his own importance, which no 
other mortal can go along w^ith. The moft per- 
fect modefty and plainnefs, joined to as much ne- 
gligence as is confiftent with the refpedt due to 
the company, ought to be the chief charadterif- 
tics of the behaviour of a private man. If ever 
he hopes to diftinguifh himfelf, it muft be by 
more important virtues. He muft acquire de- 
pendants to balance the dependants of the great, 
and he has no other fund to pay them from, 
but the labour of his body, and the adlivity of 
his mind. He muft cultivate thefe therefore : he 
muft acquire fuperior knowledge in his profeflion, 
and fuperior induftry in the exercife of it. He 

G 2 muft 

84 (^Propriety. Part L 

muft be patient in labour, refolute in danger, and 
firm in diflrefs. Thefe talents he mull bring into- 
public view, by the difficulty, importance, and, at 
the fame time, good judgment of his undertakings, 
and by the fevere and unrelenting application 
with which he purfaes them. Probity and pru- 
dence, generofity and franknefs, muft characte- 
rize his behaviour upon all ordinary occafions • 
and he muft, at the fame time, be forward to 
engage in all thofe fituations in v;hich it requires 
the greateft talents and virtues to a6t with pro- 
priety, but in which the greateft applaufe is to 
be acquired by thofe who can acquit themfelves 
with honour. With what impatience does the man 
of fpirit and ambition, who is deprelTed by his 
fituation, look round for fome great oppor- 
tunity to diftinguifti himfelf ? No circumftances, 
which can afford this, appear to him undefirable. 
He even looks forward with fatisfadion to the 
profped of foreign w^ar, or civil dilfenfion -, and, 
with feeret transport and delight, fees through 
all the confufion and bloodfhed which attend them, 
the probability of thofe wifhed for occafions prefent- 
ing themfelves, in which he may draw upon him- 
felf the attention and admiration of mankind. The 
man of rank and diftindion, on the contrary, 
whofe whole glory confifts in the propriety of his 
ordinary behaviour, who is contented widi the 
humble renown which this can afford him, and 
has no talents to acquire any other, is unwilling 
to embarrafs himfelf with what can be attended 
either with difficulty or diftrefs. To figure at a 
ball is his great triumph, and to fucceed in 
an intrigue of gallantry, his higheft exploit. He 
has an averfion to all public confufions, not from 


Sed. 3. 0/ P R O P R I E T Y. 85 

the love of mankind, for the great never look 
upon their inferiors as their fellow-creatures ; nor 
yet from want of courage, for in that he is fel- 
dom defedlive ; but from a confcioufnefs that he 
polTelTes none of the virtues which are required 
in fuch fituations, and that the public attention 
will certainly be drawn away from him by others. 
He may be willing to expofe himfelf to fome 
little danger, and to make a campaign when it 
happens to be the fadiion. But he Ihudders with 
Jiorrof at the thought of any fituation which de- 
mands the continual and long exertion of patience, 
induftry, fortitude, and application of thought. 
Thefe virtues are hardly ever to be met with in 
men who are born to thofe high ftations. In ail go- 
vernments accordingly, even in monarchies, the 
'highefl offices are generally poffelTed, and the whole 
detail of the adminiilration condu6led by men who 
were educated in the middle and inferior ranks of 
life, who have been carried forward by their own 
indullry and abilities, though loaded with the 
jealoufy, and oppofed by the refentment of all thofe 
who were born their fuperiors, and to whom the 
great, after having regarded them firil with con- 
tempt, and afterwards with envy, are at laft con- 
tented to truckle with the fame abjecft meannefs 
with which they defire that the reft of mankind 
fliould beliaye to themfelves, 

It is the lofs of this eafy empire over the af ^ 
fedlions of mankind which renders the fall from 
greatnefs fo infuppor table. When the family of 
the King of Macedon w^s led in triumph by 
Paulus iEmilius, their misfortunes, it is faid, made 
them divide with their conqueror the attention 

G 3 of 

S6 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. Part I. 

of the Romon people. The fight of the royal 
children, whofe tender age rendered them infen- 
fible of their fituation, ftruck the fpedlators, a- 
midfl the public rejoicings and profperity, with 
the tendered forrow and companion. The King 
appeared next in the proceflion -, and feemed like 
one confounded and aftoniflied, and bereft of all 
fentiment, by the greatnefs of his calamities. His 
friends and miniilers followed after him. As they 
moved along, they often cafl their eye upon their 
fallen fovereign, and always burll into tears at the 
fight ', their whole behaviour demonflrating that 
they thought not of their misfortunes, but were 
occupied entirely by the fuperior greatnefs of his. 
The generous Romans, on the contrary, beheld 
him with difdain and indignation, and legarded 
as unworthy of all compaflion the man who could 
be fo mean-fpirited as to bear to live under fuch 
calamities. Yet what did thofe calamities amount 
to ? According to the greater part of hiflorians, 
he was to fpend the remainder of his days un- 
der the protedHon of a powerful and humane 
people, in a llate which in itfelf fhould feem 
v/orthy of envy, a ftate of plenty, eafe, ieifure, and 
fecurity, from which it was impollible for him 
even by his own folly to fall. But he was no 
longer to be furrounded by that admiring mob 
of fools, flatterers, and dependants, who had for- 
merly been accuflomed to attend upon all his 
motions. He was no longer to be gazed upon 
by multitudes, nor to have it in his pov/er to 
render himfelf the objed of their refpecl, their 
gratitude, their love, their admiration. The paf- 
fions of nations were no longer to mould them- 


Sect. 3. 0/ P R O P R I E T Y. ^7 

felves upon his inclinations. This was th^t infup- 
portable calamity which bereaved the King of all 
fentiment ; which made his friends forget their own 
misfortunes ; and which the Roman magnanimity 
could fcarce conceive how any man could be fo 
mean-fpirited as to bear to furvive. 

" Love, fays my Lord Rochfoucault, is com- 
monly fucceeded by ambition ; but ambition 
is hardly ever fucceeded by love." That paf- 
fion when once it has got entire poiTellion of I 
the breaft, will admit neither a rival nor a fuc- 
ceflbr. To thofe whg have been accuftomed to 
tlie poffeliion, or even to the hope of public ad- 
miration, all other pleafures ficken and decay. Of 
all the difcarded llatefmen who for their own 
eafe have ftudied to get the better of ambition, 
and to defpife thofe honours v^hich they couM no 
longer arrive at, how few have been able to fuc- 
ceed ? The greater part have fpent their time in 
the moil lifllefs and infipid indolence, chagrined 
at the thoughts of their own infignificancy, in- 
capable of being interefled in the occupations 
of private life, without enjoyment except when 
they talked of their former greatnefs, and with- 
out fatisfadlion except when they were employed 
in fome vain project to recover it. Are you in 
earnefh refolved never to barter your liberty for 
the lordly fervitude of a Court, but to live free, 
fearlefs, and independent ^ There feems to be one 
way to continue in that virtuous refolution ; and 
perhaps but one. Never enter the place from 
whence fo few h«ve been able to return j never 
come within the circle of ambition ; nor even bring 
yourfelf into comparifon with thofe mafters of the 

G 4 earth 

88 0/ P R o p R I ^ T Y. Part I. 

earth who have already engrofTed the attention of 
half mankind before you. 

Of fuch mighty importance does it appear to be^ 
in the imaginations of men, to ftand in that fituation 
which fets them moft in the view of general fympa- 
thy and attention. And thus, place, that great ob- 
je6t which divides the wives of aldermen, is the end 
of half the labours of life ^ and is the caufe of all the 
tumult and buflle, all the rapine and injuftice, which 
avarice and ambition have introduced into this world. 
People of fenfe, it is faid, indeed deipife place ; that 
is, they defpife fitting at the head of the table, and 
are indifferent who it is that is pointed out to the 
company by that frivolous circumftance, which the 
fmaliell advantage is capable of overbalancing. But 
rank, diflindion, pre-eminence, no man defpifes, 
unlefs he is either raifed very much above, or funk 
very much below, the ordinary llandard of human 
nature; unlefs he is either fo confirmed in wifdom 
and real philofophy, as to be fatistied that, while the 
propriety of his conduft renders him thejufi: objeft 
of approbation, it is of little confequence though he 
be neither attended to, nor approved of; or fo habi- 
tuated to the idea of his own rheannefs, fo funk in 
flothful and fottifh indifference, as entirely to have 
forgot the defire, and almoft the very wifh, for fu- 


Sed. 3- CyPfiopRiETY, 89 


Of the ftoical philofophy, 

VV HEN we examine in this manner into the 
ground of the different degrees of eflimation which 
mankind are apt to beflow upon the different con- 
ditions of life, we fhall find, that thfe exceflive pre- 
ference, which they generally give to fome of them 
above others, is \x\ a great meafure without any 
foundation. If to be able to act with propriety, 
and to render ourfelves the proper objedts of the ap- 
probation of mankind, be, as we have been endea- 
vouring to fhow, what chiefly recommends to us 
one condition above another, this may equally be 
attained in them all. The noblell propriety of con- 
dudl may be fupported in adverfity, as well as in 
profperity ; and though it is fomewhat more difficult 
in the firft, it is upon that very account more ad- 
mirable. Perils and misfortunes are not only the 
proper fchool of heroifm, they are the only proper 
theatre which can exhibit its virtue to advantage, 
and draw upon it the full applaufe of the world. 
The man, whofe whole life has been one even and 
uninterrupted courfe of profperity, who i^ever braved 
any danger, who never encountered any difficulty, 
who never furmounted any diilrefs, can excite but 
an inferior degree of admiration. When poets and 
romance-writers endeavour to invent a train of ad- 
ventures, which fhall give the greatefl luftre to thofe 


90 (yPROpRiETY. Part L 

characters for whom they mean to interefl us, they 
are all of a different kind. They are rapid and fud- 
den changes of fortune, fituations the mofl apt to 
drive thole who are in them to frenzy and diitratlion, 
or to abject defpair ; but in which their heroes act 
with fo much propriety, or at leaft with fo much 
fpirit and undaunted refolution, as ftiil to command 
our efleem. Is not the unfortunate magnanimity of 
Cato, Brutus, and Leonidas, as much the object of 
admiration, as that of the fuccefsful Caefar or Alex- 
ander ? To a generous mind, therefore, ought it not 
to be as much the objedt of envy ? If a more daz- 
zling fplendor feems to attend the fortunes of fuc- 
cefsful conquerors, it is becaufe they join together 
the advantages of both fituations, the luflre of prof- 
perity to the high admiration which is excited by 
dangers encountered, and difficulties furmounted, 
with intrepidity and valour. 

It was upon this account that, according to the 
floical philofophy, to a wife man ail the different 
conditions of life were equal. Nature, they faid, 
had recommended fome objects to our choice, and 
others to our difapprobation. Our primary appe^ 
tites direded us to the purfuit of health, flrength, 
eafe, and perfection, in all the qualities of mind and 
body ; and of whatever could promote or fecure 
thefe, riches, power, authority : and the fame ori- 
ginal principle taught us to avoid the contrary. But 
in chufmg or rejeding, in preferring or poftponing, 
thofe firft objects of original appetite and averfion, 
Nature had likewife taught us, that there was a cer- 
tain order, propriety, and grace, to be obferved, of 
infinitely greater confequence to happinefs and per- 

Sed. 3- 0/ P R o p R I E T Y. 91 

fedVion, than the attainment of thofe objects them- 
felves. The objedls of our primary appetites or 
averfions were to be purfued or avoided, chiefly 
becaufe a regard to this grace and propriety requir- 
ed fach condudl. In direding all our adions ac- 
cording to thefe, confiiled the happinefs and glory 
of human nature. In departing from thofe rules 
which they prefcribed to us, its greateft wretched- 
nefs and mofi: complete depravity. The outward 
appearance of this order and propriety was indeed 
more eafily maintained in fome circumflances than 
in others. To a fool, however, to one whofe paf- 
fions were fubjeded to no proper controul, to adl 
with real grace and propriety, was equally impof- 
fible in every fituation. Though the giddy multi- 
tude might admire him, though his vanity might 
fometimes be elevated by their ignorant praifes into 
fomething that refembled felf-approbation, yet flill 
when he turned his view to what paffed within his 
own breafl, he was fecretly confcious to himfelf of 
the abfurdity and meannefs of all his motives, and 
inv/ardly blufhed and trembled at the thoughts of 
the contempt which he knew he deferved, and 
which mankind would certainly bellow upon him 
if they faw his conduct in the light in which in his 
own heart he was obliged to regard it. To a wife 
man, on the contrary, to one whofe pafTions were 
all brought under perfedl fubjedtion to the ruling 
principles of his nature, to reafon and the love of 
propriety, to adt fo as to deferve approbation was 
equally eafy upon all occafions. Was he in profpe- 
rity, he returned thanks to Jupiter for having join- 
ed him with circumflances which were eafily maf- 
tered, and in which there was little temptation to 
do wrong. Was he in adverfity, he equally, re- 

92 0/pROPj^iETY. Part I, 

turned thanks to the diredor of this fpec- 
tacle of human life, for having oppofed to him a 
vigorous athlete, over whom, though the conteft 
was likely to be more violent, the victory was more 
glorious, and equally certain. Can there be any 
Ihame in that difliels which is brought upon us with- 
out any fault of our own, and in which v/e behave 
with perfed propriety ? There can therefore, be no 
evil, but, on the contrary, the greateit good and ad- 
vantage. A brave man exults in thofe dangers, in 
which, from no rallineiis of his own, his fortune has 
involved him. They afford an opportunity of ex- 
ercifmg that heroic intrepidity, whofe exertion gives 
the exalted delight which flows from the coniciouf- 
nefs of fuperior propriety and deierved admiration. 
One who is mafler of all his exercifes has no averfiou 
to meafure his ftrength and adivity with the ftrong- 
efl. And in the fame manner, one who is mafter 
of all his palTions, does not dread any circumilancea 
in ^yhich the fuperintendant of the univerfe may 
think proper to place him. The bounty of that Di- 
vine Being has provided him with virtues which ren- 
der him fuperior to every fituation. If it is pleafure, 
he has temperance to refrain from it ; if it is pain, 
he has conflancy to bear it ; if it is danger or death, 
he has magnanimity and fortitude to defpife it. He 
never complains of the defliny of providence, nor 
thinks the univerfe in confufion when he is out of 
order. He does not look upon himfelf, according 
to what felf-love would fuggefl, as a whole, fepa- 
rated and detached from every other part of nature, 
to be takers care of by itfelf, and for itfelf. He re- 
gards hirnfelf in the light in which he imagines the 
great Genius of human nature, and of the world, 
regards him. He enters, if I may fay fo, into the 


Sed. 3. 0/ P R p R I E T Y. 93 

fentiments of that Divine Being, and confiders him- 
felf as an atom, a particle, of an immenfe and infi- 
nite f) flem, which muft, and ought to be difpofed 
of, according to the conveniency of the whole. Af- 
fured of the wifdom which directs all the events of 
human life, whatever lot befalls him, he accepts it 
with joy, fatisfied that, if he had known all the con- 
nexions and dependencies of tlie different parts of 
the univerfe,.it is the very lot which he himfeif would 
have wilTied for. If it is life, he is contented to 
live : and if it is deadi, as Nature muft have no fur- 
ther occafion for his prefence here, he willingly goes 
v/here he is appointed. I accept, faid a fboical phi- 
lofopher, v/ith equal joy and fatisfad:ion, whatever 
fortune can befal me. Riches or poverty, pleafure 
or pain, health or ficknefs, all is alike : nor would 
I defire that the gods fhould in any refpeft change 
my deftination. If I was to afk of them any thing, 
beyond what their bounty has already beftowed, it 
fhould be that they v/ould inform me beforehand 
what it was their pleafure fhould be done with me, 
that I might of my own accord place myfelf in this 
fituation, and demonftrate the chearfulnefs with 
which I embraced their allotment. If I am going 
to fail, fays Epidletus, [ chufc the bell fhip, and the 
beft pilot, and I wait for the fairelt weather that my 
circumftances and duty will allow. Prudence and 
propriety, the principles which the gods have given 
me for the diredion of my conduct, require this of 
me ; but they require no more : and if, notv/ith- 
ftanding, a ftorm arifes, which neither the ftrength 
of the velTel, nor the (kill of the pilot are likely to 
withftand, I give myfelf no trouble about the con- 
fequence. All that I had to do, is done aLeady. 
The directors of my conduct never command me 


,94- Cy P R o p R r E r Y. Part I. 

to be miferable, to be anxious, defponding, or 
afraid. Whether we are to be drowned, or to come 
to a harbour, is the bufinefs of Jupiter, not mine. 
I leave it entirely to his determination, nor ever 
break my reft with confidering which way he is 
likely to decide it, but receive whatever comes with 
equal indifference and fecurity. 

Such was the philofophy of the fto'.cs ; a philpr- 
fophy which affords the nobiefl lelTons of magnani- 
mity, is the bed fchool of heroes and patriots, and 
to the greater part of whofe precepts there can be 
no objection, except that honourable one, that they 
teach us to aim at a perfection altogether beyond 
the reach of human nature. I fhall not at prefent 
ilop to examine it. I fhall only obferve, in confir- 
mation of what has formerly been faid, that the 
moil dreadful calamities are not always thofe which 
it is moft difficult to fupport. It is often more mor- 
tifying to appear in publick, under fmall difaflers, 
than under great misfortunes. The firfl excite no 
fympathy ; but the fecond, though they may excite 
none that approaches to the anguifh of the fufferer, 
call forth, however, a very lively companion. The 
fentiments of the fpedlators are, in this laft cafe, 
therefore, lefs wide of thofe of the fufferer, and 
their imperfedl fellow-feeling lends him fome affift- 
ance in Supporting his mifery. Before a gay affem- 
bly, a gentleman would be more mortified to ap- 
pear covered with fihh and rags than with blood 
and wounds. This lafl fituation would interefl 
their pity ; the other would provoke their laughter. 
The judge who orders a criminal to be fet in the 
pillory, difhonours him. more than if he had con- 
demned him to the fcaffold. The great prince, 


Se6t. 3. CyPROpRiETY. 95 

who, fome years ago, caned a general officer at the 
head of his army, difgraced him irrecoverably. 
The puniihment v/zould have been much lefs had he 
fliot him through the body. By the laws of ho- 
nour, to fir ike with a cane difhonours, to ftrike with 
a fword does not, for aft obvious reafon. Thofe 
flighter puniiliments when inflidted on a gentleman, 
to whom diHionour is tlie greateft of all evils, come 
to be regarded among a humane and generous peo- 
ple, as the moll dreadful of any. With regard to 
perfons of that rank, therefore, they are univerfally 
laid afide, and the law, wliile it takes their life up- 
on many occafions, refpe6ls their honour upon al- 
moft ail. To fcourge a perfon of quality, or to 
fet him in the pillory, upon account of any crime 
whatever, is a brutality of which no European go- 
vernment^ except that of Ruilia, is capable, 

A brave man is not rendered contemptible by be- 
ing brought to the fcaffbld ; he is, by being fet in 
the pillory. His behaviour in the one fituation may 
gain him univerfal efleem and admiration. No be- 
haviour in the other can render him agreeable. The 
fympathy of the fpectators fupports him in the one 
cafe, and faves him from that fhame, that confciouf- 
nefs that his mifery is felt by himfelf only, which is 
of all fentiments the moft unfupportable. There is 
no fympathy in the other ; or, if there is any, it is 
not with his pain, which is a trifle, but with his con- 
fcioufnefs of the want of fympathy with which this 
pain is attended. It is with his fhame, not with 
his forrow. Thofe who pity him, bluili and hang 
down their heads for him. He droops in the fame 
manner, and feels himfelf irrecoverably degraded 
by the puniihment, though not by the crime. The 


gS Of Fro r RiETY, Part L 

man, on the contrary, who dies with refolution, as 
he is naturally regarded with the ere£l afpedt of ef- 
teem and approbation, fo he wears himfelf the fame 
undaunted countenance ; and, if the crime does 
not deprive him of the refped of others, the punifh- 
ment never will. H© has no fufpicion that his fitu- 
ation is the objedl of contempt or derifion to any 
body, and he can, with propriety, alTume the air, 
not only of perfedt ferenity, but of triumph and 

" Great dangers, fays the Cardinal de Retz, have 
*' their charms, becaufe there is fome glory to be 
'*• got, even when we mifcarry. But moderate dan- 
*^ gers have nothing but what is horrible, becaufe 
*^ the lofs of reputation always attends the want of 
*' fuccefs.'* His maxim has the fame foundation 
with what we have beenjuil now obferving w^ith re- 
gard to punifhments. 

Human virtue is fuperior to pain, to poverty, to 
danger, and to death ; nor does it even require its 
utmoft efforts to defpife them. But to have its mi- 
fery expofed to infult and derifion, to be led in 
triumph, to be fet up for the hand of fcorn to point 
at, is a fituation in which its conflancy is much more 
apt to fail. Compared with the contempt of man- 
kind, all other evils are eafily fupported. 


PART 11. 

Of Merit and Demerit; of, of the Ob- 
jeds of Reward and Punishment. 

Consisting of three Sections. 


Of the fenfe of merit and demerit. 

X HERE is another fet of qualities afcribed to 
the adlioiis and condud of mankind, diftind from 
their propriety or impropriety, their decency or un- 
gracefulnefs, and which are the objeds of a diflind 
fpecies of approbation and disapprobation . Thefe 
are merit and demerit, the qualities of deferving 
reward, and of deferving punifhment. 

It has already been obferved, that the fentiment 
or afFedion of the heart, from which any adion 
proceeds, and upon which its whole virtue or vice 
depends, may be confidered under two different af- 
pects, or in two different relations : firft, in rela- 
tion to the caufe or objed which excites it ; and, 
fecondly, in relation to the end which it propofes, 

H or 

98 0/ Merit <^//(i Demerit. Part II. 

or to the effe(fl which it tends to produce : that up- 
on the fuitablenefs or unfuitablenefs, upon the pro- 
portion or difproportion, which the affedlion feems 
to bear to the caufe or object which excites it, de- 
pends the propriety or impropriety, the decency or 
ungraceful nefs of the confequent action ^ and that 
upon the beneficial or hurtful effeds which the affec- 
tion propofes or tends to produce, depends the me- 
rit or demerit, the good or ill defert of the adion 
to which it gives occafion. Wherein confifts our 
fenfe of the propriety or impropriety of anions, has 
been explained in the former part of this difcourfe. 
We come now to confider, wherein confifls that of 
their good or ill defert. 

C H A P. I. 

^at whatever appears to be the proper ohjetl of gratitude^ 
appears to deferve 7'eward-^ and that^ in the fame man- 
ner^ whatever appears to he the proper objeB of re- 
fentmenty appears to deferve punijhment. 


O us, therefore, that adlion muft appear to de- 
ferve reward, which appears to be the proper and 
approved objedt of that fentiment, which mofl im- 
mediately and diredlly prompts us to reward, or to 
do good to another. And in the fame manner, 
that adion muft appear to deferve punifhment, 
which appears to be the proper and approved objedt 
of that fentiment which moft immediately and di- 
redtly prompts us to publifh, or inflid evil upon 


Sedl. I. Of Merit and Demerit. 99 

The fentiment which mofl immediately and di- 
redly prompts us to reward, is gratitude; that which 
moil immediately and diredly prompts us to punifh, 

is refentment. 

To us, therefore, that adlion muft appear to de- 
ferve reward, which appears to be the proper and ap- 
proved objedl of gratitude ; as, on the other hand, 
that adion muft appear to deferve punifhment, 
which appears to be the proper and approved objedt 
of refentment. 

To reward, is to recompenfe, to remunerate, to 
return good for good received. To punifh, too, is 
to recompenfe, to remunerate, though in a different 
manner ; it is to return evil for evil that has been 

There are fome other pafTions, befides gratitude 
and refentment, which intereil us in the happinefs or 
mifery of others ^ but there are none which fo di- 
rectly excite us to be the inftruments of either. The 
love and elleem which grow upon acquaintance and 
habitual approbation, necelfarily lead us to be pleafed 
with the good fortune of the man who is the objedt 
of fuch agreeable emotions, and confequently, to be 
willing to lend a hand to promote it. Our love, 
however, is fully fatisfied, though his good fortune 
(hould be brought about without our alTiftance. All 
that this paffion defires is to fee him happy, without 
regarding who was the author of his profpertty. But 
gratitude is not to be fatisfied in this manner. If the 
perfon to whom we owe many obligations, is made 
happy without our afliftance, though it pleafes Our 
love, it does not content our gratitude. Till we 

H 2 have 

loo Of Merit and Demerit. Part IL 

have recompenfed him, till we oiirfelves have been 
inftrumental in promoting his happinefs, we feel oiir- 
felves flill loaded with that debt which his pail fer- 
vices have laid upon us. 

The hatred and diflike, in the fame manner, 
■which grow upon habitual difapprobation, would of- 
ten lead us to take a malicious pleafure m the misfor- 
tune of the man whofe condudl and charader excite 
fo painful a paflion. But though diflike and hatred 
harden us againfl all fympathy, and fometimes dif- 
pofe us even to rejoice at the diftrefs of another, yet, 
if there is no refentment in the cafe, if neither we 
nor our friends have received any great perfonal pro- 
vocation, thefe palTions would not naturally lead us to 
wifh to be inftrumental in bringing it about. Tho* 
we could fear no punifhment in confequence of » our 
having had fome hand it, we would rather that it 
fhould happen by other means. To one under the 
dominion of violent hatred it would be agreeable, 
perhaps, to hear, that the perfon whom he abhorred 
and detefted was killed by fome accident. But if he 
had the leaft fpark of juilice, which, though this paf- 
fion is not very favourable to virtue, he might Hill 
have, it would hurt him exceflively to have been him- 
felf, even without defign, the occafion of this misfor- 
tune. Much more would the very thought of volun- 
tarily contributing to it fhock him beyond all meafure. 
He would rejed with horror even the imagination of 
fo execrable a defign ; and if he could imagine him- 
felf capable of fuch an enormity, he would begin to 
regard himfelf in the fame odious light in which he 
had confidered the perfon who was the objedt of 
his diflike. But it is quite otherwife with refentment: 


Sedt. I. 0/Merit ^wJ Demerit. ioi 

if the perlbn who had done us fome great injury, 
who had murdered our father or our brother, for ex- 
ample, (hould foon afterwards die of a fever, or even 
be brought to the fcafFold upon account of fome other 
crime, though it might footh our hatred, it would not 
fully gratify our refentment. Refentment would 
prompt us to defire, not only that he fhould be pu- 
nifhed, but that he fhould be punilhed by our means, 
and upon account of that particular injury which he 
had done to us. Refentment cannot be fully grati- 
fied, unlefs the offender is not only made to grieve in 
his turn, but to grieve for that particular wrong 
which we have fuffered from him. He muft be 
made to repent and be forry for this very adion, that 
others, through fear of the like punifhment, may be 
terrified from being guilty of the like offence. The 
natural gratification of this palTion tends, of i^s own 
accord, to produce all the political ends of punifh- 
ment ', the correction of the criminal, and the exam^ 
pie to the public. 

Gratitude and refentment, therefore, are the fenti- 
ments which moft immediately and diredly prompt 
to reward and to punifh. To us, therefore, he muft 
appear to deferve reward, who appears to be the 
proper and approved objedt of gratitude -, and he to 
deferve punifhment, who appears to be that of re- 

H 3 CHAP. 


lOZ Of Merit and Dewlerit. Part II, 


Of the proper ohjeBs of gratitude and refentment. 

A O be the proper and approved object either of 
gratitude or refentment, can mean nothing but to 
be the object of that gratitude, and of that refent- 
rnent, which naturally feems proper, and is ap- 
proved of. 

Eut thefe, as well as ail the other paflions of hu' 
man nature, feem proper and are approved of, when 
the heart of every impartial fpedtator entirely fym- 
pathizes with them, when every indifferent by- 
flander entirely enters into, and goes along v/ith 

He, therefore, appears to deferve reward, who, 
to fome perfon or perfons, is the natural objedt of 
a gratitude which every human heart is difpofed to 
beat time to, and thereby applaud : and he, on the 
other hand, appears to deferve punifhment, who 
in the fame manner is to fome perfon or perfons the 
natural objedt of a refentment which the breafh of 
every reafonable man is ready to adopt and fym- 
pathize with. To us, furely, that adion mull ap- 
pear to deferve reward, which every body who 
knows of it would wifli to reward, and therefore 


Sed. 1 . 0/ Me r i t and D em e r t t . 1 03 

delights to -fee rewarded : and that aftion ^ufl as 
furely appear to deferve punifhment, which every 
body who hears of it is angry with, and upon that 
account rejoices to fee punifhed. 

I. As we fympathize with thej©y of our compa- 
nions when in profperity, To we join v\ ith them in the 
complacency and fatisfadtion with which they natu- 
rally regard whatever is the caufe of their good for- 
tune. We enter into the love and affection which 
they conceive for it, and begin to love it too. We 
fhould be forry for their fakes if it wasdeftroyed, or 
even if it was placed at too great a diftance from 
them, and out of the reach of their care and protedti- 
on, though they fhould lofe nothing by its abfence 
except the pleafure of feeing it. If it is man who 
has thus been the fortunate inftrument of the happi- 
nefs of his brethren, this is ftill more peculiarly the 
cafe. When we fee one man allifted, protedled, re- 
lieved by another, our fympathy with thejoy of the 
perfon who receives the beneiit ferves only to animate 
our fellow-feeling with his gratitude towards him 
who beflows it. When we look upon the perfon 
who is the caufe of his pleafure with the eyes with 
which we imagine he muft look upon him, his bene- 
factor feems to fland before us in the moil engasinp' 


and amiable light. We readily therefore fympathize 
with the grateful aflfedlion which he conceives for 
a perfon to whom he has been fo much obliged ; and 
confequently applaud the returns which he is difpof- 
ed to make for the good offices conferred upon him. 
As we entirely enter into the affection from which 
thefe returns proceed, they necelTarily feem every 
way proper and fuitable to their objedt. 

H 4 2. In 

104 0/ Merit ^;//i Demerit. Part 11, 

2. In the fame manner, as we fympathize with 
the forrow of our fellow -creature whenever we fee 
his diftrefs, fo we likewife enter into his abhorrence 
and averfion for whatever has given occafion to it. 
Our heart, as it adopts and beats time to his grief, fo 
is it likewife animated with that fpirit by which he 
endeavours to drive away or deftroy the caufe of it. 
The indolent and paiTive fellow-feeling, by which we 
accompany him in his fufferings, readily gives way 
to that more vigorous and active fentiment by which 
we go along with him in the effort he makes, either 
to repel them, or to gratify his averfion to what has 
given occafion to them. This is dill more peculiarly 
the cafe, v/hen it is man who has caufed them. 
When we fee one man opprelTed or injured by an- 
other, the fympathy which we feel with the diftrefs 
of the fufferer feems to ferve only to animate our 
fellow-feeling with hisrefentment againfl the offend- 
er. We are rejoiced to fee him attack his adverfary 
in his turn, and are eager and ready to allift him 
whenever he exerts himfelf for defence, or even for 
vengeance within a certain degree. If the injured 
(hould perifh in the quarrel, we not only fympathize 
with the real refentment of his friends and relations, 
but with the imaginary refentment which in fancy 
we lend to the dead, who is no longer capable of 
feeling that or any other human fentiment. But as 
we put ourfelves in his fituation, as we enter, as it 
were, into his body, and in our imaginations, in fome 
meafure, animate anew the deformed and mangled 
carcafs of the flain, when we bring home in this man- 
ner his cafe to our own bofoms, we feel upon this, as 
upon many other occafions, an emotion which the 


Se<fl. I. Of Merit ^z^Demerit. 105 

perfon principally concerned is incapable of feeling, 
and which yet we feel by an illufive f) mpathy with 
him. The fympathetic tears which we fhed for 
that immenfe and irretrievable lofs, which in our 
fancy he appears to have fullained, feem lobe but a 
fmallpart of the duty which we owe him. The in- 
jury which he has fufFered demands, we think, a 
principal part of our attention. We feel that refenl- 
ment which we imagine he ought to feel, and which 
he would feel, if in his cold and lifelefs body there 
remained any confcioufnefs of what paiTes upon 
earth. His blood, we think, calls aloud for ven- 
geance. The very aihes. of the dead feem to be 
diflurbed at the thought that his injuries are to pafs 
unrevenged. The horrors which are fuppoied to 
haunt the bed of the murderer, the ghofls which, 
fuperftition imagines, rife from their graves to de- 
mand vengeance upon thofe who brought them to 
an untimely end, all take their origin from this na- 
tural fympathy with the imaginary refentment of 
the flain. And with regard, at lead, to this moft 
dreadful of all crimes. Nature, antecedent to all re- 
flexions upon the utility of punilliment, has in this 
manner flamped upon the humian heart, in the 
ftrongeft and moft indelible charaders, an imme- 
diate and inilindtive approbation of the J^^jied and 
pecelTary law of retaliation. 



io6 Cy Merit ^72^ Demerit. Part IL 


That where there is no approbation of the conduct of the 
per/on who confers the benefit^ there is little fympa- 
thy with the gratitude of him who receives it : and 
that^ on the contrary^ where there is no difapproba- 
tion of the motives of the perfon who does the mif chief 
there is no fort of fympathy with the refentment of him 
who Suffers it. 


T is to be obferved, however, that, how benefi- 
cial foever on the one hand, or how hurtful 
foever on the other, the adtions or intentions 
of the perfon who ads may have been to the per- 
fon who is, if I may fay fo, aded upon, yet if in 
the one cafe there appears to have been no propriety 
in the motives of the agent, if we cannot enter into 
the afFeftions which influenced his condud, we 
have little fympathy with the gratitude of the per- 
fon who receives the benefit : or if, in the other 
cafe, there appears to have been no impropriety 
in the motives of the agent, if, on the contrary, 
the affedions which influenced his condud are fuch 
as we mufl: neceflarily enter into, we can have no 
fort of fympathy with the refentment of the per- 
fon who fuffers. Little gratitude feems due in the 
one cafe, and all fort of refentment feems unjuft in 
the other. The one adion feems to merit little 
reward, the other to defer ve no puniflmient. 

I. Firfl, 

Secft. I. Of Merit ^;^i Demerit. 107 

I . Firft, I fay, that wherever we cannot fympa- 
thize with the affections of the agent, wherever there 
feems to be no propriety in the motives which influ- 
enced his condud, we are lefs difpoied to enter into 
the gratitude of the perfon who received the benefit 
of his actions. A very fmall return feems due to 
that foohlh and profufe generofity which confers the 
greatefl benefits from the moft trivial motives, and 
gives an eflate to a merely becaufe his name and 
furname happen to be the fame with thofe of the 
giver. Such fervices do not feem to demand any 
proportionable recompenfe. Our contempt for the 
folly of the agent hinders us from thoroughly enter- 
ing into the gratitude of the perfon to whom the good 
office has been done. His benefactor feems un- 
worthy of it. As when we place ourfelves in the 
fituation of the perfon obliged, we feel that we could 
conceive no great reverence for fuch a benefadlor, 
we eafily abfolve him from a great deal of that fub- 
milTive veneration and efleem which wx fhould think 
due to a more refpedtable charadier-, and provided 
he always treats his weak friend with kindnefs and 
humanity, we are willing to excufe him from many 
attentions and regards which we fhould demand to a 
worthier patron. Thofe Princes, who have heaped, 
with the greateft profufion, wealth, power, and 
honours, upon their favourites, have feldom excited 
that degree of attachment to their perfons which has 
often been experienced by thofe who were more fru- 
gal of their favours. The well-natured, but injudici- 
ous prodigality of James the Firft of Great Britain 
feems to have attached no body to his perfon ; and 
that Prince, notwithflanding his focial and harmlefs 
difpofition, appears to have lived and died with- 

loS 0/ Merit and Demerit. Part II. 

out a friend. The whole gentry and nobility of 
England expofed their lives and fortunes in the 
caufe of his more frugal and diflinguifhing fon, 
notwithftanding the coldnefs and diftant feverity of 
his ordinary deportment. 

2. Secondly, I fay, That wherever the conduct 
of the agent appears to have been entirely directed 
by motives and affeclions which we thoroughly 
enter into and approve of, we can have no fort of 
fympathy with the refentment of the fufferer, how 
great foever the mifchief which may have been done 
to him. When two people quarrel, if we take 
part with, and entirely adopt the refentment of one 
of them, it is impoflible that we fhould enter 
into that of the other. Our fym.pathy with the 
perfon whofe motives we go along with, and whom 
therefore we look upon as in the right, cannot but 
harden us againft all fellow-feeling with the other, 
whom we neceifarily regard as in the wrong. 
Whatever this laft, therefore, may have fuffered, 
while it is no more than what we ourfelves fhould 
have wifhed him to fuffer, while it is no more than 
what our own fympathetic indignation would 
have prompted us to inflidt upon him, it cannot 
either difpleafe or provoke us. When an inhuman 
murderer is brought to the fcafFold, though we 
have fome compaflion for his mifery, we can have 
no fort of fellow-feeling v/ith his refentment, if 
he fhould be fo abfurd as to exprefs any againft 
either his profecutor or his judge. The natural 
tendency of their juft indignation againfl fo vile a 
criminal is indeed the moft fatal and ruinous to 
him. But it is impolTible that we fhould be dif- 


Sed. I. 0/ Merit and Demerit . 109 

pleafed with the tendency of a fentiment, which, 
when we bring the cafe home to ourfelves, we feel 
that we cannot avoid adopting. 


Recapitulation of the foregoing Chapters. 


E do not, therefore, thoroughly and heartily 
fympathize with the gratitude of one man towards 
another, merely becaufe this other has been the 
caufe of his good fortune, unlefs he has been the 
caufe of it from motives which we entirely go along 
with. Our heart muft adopt the principles of the 
agent, and go along with all the affections which 
influenced his condud, before it can entirely fym- 
pathize with, and beat time to, the gratitude of 
the perfon who has been benefited by his adlions. 
If in the condudl of the benefactor there appears 
to have been no propriety, how beneficial foever its 
efFedts, it does not feem to demand, or neceiTarilv 
to require, any proportionable recompenfe. 

But when to the beneficent tendency of the 
adtion is joined the propriety of the affedion from 
which it proceeds, when we entirely fympathize 
and go along with the motives of the agent, the 
love which we conceive for him upon his own 
account, enhances and enlivens our fellow-feeling 


no Cy Merit ^;/i^ Demerit. Part IL 

with the gratitude of thofe who owe their profperity 
to his good conduct. His adlions feem then to 
demand, and, if I may fay fo, to call aloud for a 
proportionable recompenfc. We then entirely en- 
ter into that gratitude which prompts to bellow it. 
The benefador feems then to be the proper obje6: 
of reward, when we thus entirely fympathize with, 
and approve of, that fentiment which prompts to 
reward him. When we approve of, and go along 
with, the affection from which the a(£lion proceeds, 
we mufl neceilarily approve of the adlion, and re- 
gard the perfon towards whom it is dire<6ted as its 
proper and fuitable objedt. 

2. In the fame manner, we cannot at all fympa- 
thize with the refentment of one man againfl ano- 
ther, merely becaufe this other has been the caufe 
of his misfortune, unlefs he has been the caufe of it 
from motives which we cannot enter into. Before 
we can adopt the refentment of the fufferer, we 
mufb difapprove of the motives of the agent, and 
feel that our heart renounces all fympathy with the 
affections which influenced his conduct. If there 
appears to have been no impropriety in thefe, how 
fatal foever the tendency of the action which pro- 
ceeds from them to thofe againit whom it is di- 
rected, it does not feem to deferve any punifh- 
ment, or to be the proper objedt of any refent- 

But when to the hurtfulnefs of the adtion is join- 
ed the impropriety of the affedtion from whence it 
proceeds, when our heart rejedts with abhorrence 
all fellow-feeling v/ith tlie motives of the agents 


Sed. I. 0/ Merit ^w^ Demerit; in 

we then heartily and entirely fympathize with the 
refentment of the fufferer. Such adtions feem then 
to deferve, and, if I may fay fo, to call aloud for, 
a proportionable punifhment ; and we entirely enter 
into, and thereby approve of, that refentment which 
prompts to inflid it. The offender necelfarily 
feems then to be the proper objed of punifhment, 
when we thus entirely fympathize with, and thereby 
approve of, that fentiment which prompts to punifli. 
In this cafe too, when we approve, and go along 
with, the afFedtion from which the adion proceeds, 
we mufl necelfarily approve of the action, and 
regard the perfon againfl whom it is directed, as its 
proper and fuitableobjedt. 


112 Of Mep>.it and Demerit. Part IL 

CHAP. v. 

Tbe analyfts of the fenfe of merit and dement, 

JljL S our fenfe, therefore, of the propriety of 
conduct srifes from what I iTiall call a diredt fympa-' 
thy with the afFedions and motives of the perfon 
who adls, fo our fenfe of its merit arifes from what 
I fhall call an indiredl fympathy with the gratitude 
of the perfon who is, if I may fay fo, adtedupon. 

As we cannot indeed enter thoroughly into the 
gratitude of the perfon who receives the benefit, 
unlefs we beforehand approve of the motives of the 
benefactor, fo, upon this account, the fenfe of merit 
feems to be a compounded fentiment, and to be 
made up of two diftinct emotions ; a diredl fympa- 
thy with the fentiments of the agent, and an indi- 
rect fympathy with the gratitude of thofe who re- 
ceive the benefit of his adtions. 

We may, upon many different occafions, plainly 
diftinguifh thofe two different emotions combining 
and uniting together in our fenfe of the good defert 
of a particular charader or action. When we read in 
hiftory concerning adions of proper and beneficent 
great nefs of mind, hov/ eagerly do we enter into 
fuch defigns ? How much are we animated by that 


Se6t. I. 0/Merit and Demerit. 113- 

high-fpirlted generofity which dire^ls them ? How 
keen are we for their fuccefs ? How grieved at their 
difappointmeiit ? In imagination we become the very 
perfon whofe adions are reprefented to us : we tran- 
fport ourfelves in fancy to the fcenes of thofe diftant 
and forgotten adventures, and imagine ourfelves 
acting the part of a Scipio or a Camillus, a Timole- 
on or an Ariilides. So far our fentiments are found- 
ed upon the dired: fympathy with the perfon who 
a6ls. Nor is the indirect fympathy with thofe who 
receive the benefit of fuch adions lefs fenfibly felt. 
Whenever we place ourfelves in the fituation of thefe 
laft, with v/ hat warm and afFedtionate fellow-feeling do 
we enter into their gratitude towards thofe who ferved 
them fo effentially ? We embrace, as it were, their 
benefatlor along with them. Our heart readily fym- 
pathizes with the higheft tranfports of their gratefuf 
afFedion. No honours, no rewards, we think, can 
be too great for them to bellow upon him. When 
they make this proper return for his feiVices, we 
heartily applaud and go along with them ; but are: 
fhocked beyond all meafure, if by their conduct they 
appear to have little fenfe of the obligations conferred 
upon them. Our whole fenfe, iii fliort, of the 
merit and good defert of fuch adtions, of the proprie- 
ty and fimefs of rdcompenfmg them, and making 
the perfon who performed them rejoice in his turn, 
arifes from the fym pathetic emotions of gratitude 
and love, v/ith which, when we bring home to ouif 
own breaft the fituation of thofe principally concern- 
ed, we feel ourfelves naturally tranfported towards 
the man who could adt with fuch pro]ljer and noble 

I 2. In 

114 0/ Merit ^;«^ Demerit. Part IL 

2. In the fame manner as our {cnft of the impro- 
priety of condud arifes from a want of fympathy, or 
from a direct antipathy to the affedions and motives 
of the agent, fo our fenfe of its dem^erit arifes from 
what I (hall here too call an indired fympathy with 
the refentment of the fufFerer. 

As we cannot indeed enter into the refentment of 
the fuiferer, unlefs our heart beforehand difapproves 
the motives of the agent, and renounces all fellow- 
feeling with them ; foupon this account the fenfe of 
demerit, as well as that of merit, feems to be a com- 
pounded fentiment, and to be made up of two dif- 
tind emotions -, a dired antipathy to the fentiments 
of the agent, and an indired fympathy with the re- 
fentment of the fufterer. 

We may here too, upon many different occafions, 
plainly diftinguilh thofe two different emotions com- 
bining and uniting together in our fenfe of the ill 
defert of a particular charader or adion. -When 
we read in hiflory concerning the perfidy and cruelty 
ofa Borgia or a Nero, our heart rifes up againft the 
deteftable fentiments which influenced their condud, 
and renounces with horror and abomination all fel- 
low-feeling with fuch execrable motives. So far 
our fentiments are founded upon the dired antipathy 
to the affections of the agent : and the indired fym- 
pathy with the refentment of the fufferers is flill 
more fenfibly felt. When we bring home to our- 
felves the fituation of the perfons whom thofe 
fcourges of mankind infalted, murdered, or betray- 
ed, what indignation do we not feel againft fuch in- 
folent and inhuman oppreffors of the earth ? Our 


Se6t, I. 0/ Merit and Demerit. 115 

fympathy with the unavoidable diilrefs of thehinocent 
fuflerers is not more real nor more lively, than our 
fellow-feeling with their jufl and natural refentment. 
The former fentiment only heightens the latter, and 
the idea of their diftrefs ferves only to inflame and 
blow up our animoficy againft thofe who occafioned 
it. When vre thmk of the anguifh of the fufferers, 
we take part with them more earneilly againfl: their 
opprelTors ; we enter with more eagernefs into all 
their fchemes of vengeance, and feel ourfelves every 
moment wreaking, in imagination, upon fuch viola- 
tors of the laws of fociety, that punifhment which 
Our fympathetic indignation tells us is due to their 
crimes. Our fenfe of the horror and dreadful atro- 
city of fuch conduct, the delight which we take in 
hearing that it was properly punifhed, the indigna- 
tion which we feel when it efcapes this due retaliati- 
on, our whole fenfe and feeling, in fhort, of its ill 
defert, of the propriety and fitnefs of inflidting evil 
upon the perfon who is guilty of it, and of making 
him grieve in his turn, arifes from the fympathetic 
indignation which naturally boils up in the breaft of 
the fpedtator, whenever he thoroughly brings home 
to himfelf the cafe of the fufferer *. 

* To afcrlbe in this manner our natural fenfe of the ill defert 
of human actions to a fympathy with the refentment of the fuffer- 
er, may feem, to the greater part of people, to be a degradation 
of that fentiment, Refentment is common' y regarded as fo odious 
a paflion, that they will be apt to think it impoflible that fo lau- 
dable a principle, as the fenfe of the ill defert of vice, ihould in 
any refpe6t be founded upon it. They will be more willing, per- 
haps, to admit that our fenfe of the merit of good a6lions is found- 
ed upon a fympathy with the gratitude of the perfons who re- 
ceive the benefit of them ; becaufe gratitude, as well as all the 
other benevolent paflions, is regarded as an amiable principle, 
which can take nothing from the worth of whatever is founded 

I 2 vnon 

ii6 0/Merit ^//y/Demerit. Part II. 

upon it. Gratitude and rerentment, however, are in every refpe^t, 
it is evident, counterparts to one another -, and if our fenfe of 
merit arifes from a fjmpathy with the one, our fenfe ot demerit can 
fcarce mifs to proceed from a fellow feeling with the other. 

Let it be confidered too that refentment, though, in the degrees 
in vv'hich we too often fee it, the moil odious, perhaps, of all the 
paflions, is net difapproved of vv^hen properly humbled and entirely 
brought down to the level of the lympathetlc indignation of the 
fpeftator. When we, who are the byftanders, feel that our own 
animofity entirely correfponus v/ith that of the fuiferer, when the 
refentment of this lad does not in any refped go beyond our own, 
when no v/ord, no gefture, efcapes him that denotes an emotion 
more violent than what we can keep time to, and when he never 
aims at inflicting any punilhment beyond what we fhould rejoice to 
fee. inflicted, or what we ourfelves would upon this account even 
delire to be the inftruments of infliding, it is impoflible that we 
Ihould not entirely approve of his fentiments. Our own emotion 
in this cafe muft, in our eyes, undoubtedly juftify his. And as 
experience teaches us how much the greater part of mankind are 
incapable of this moderation, and how great an effort muft be made 
in order to bring down the rude and undifciplined impulfe of re- 
fentment to this fuitable temper, we cannot avoid conceiving a 
confiderable degree of eHeem and admiration for one who appears 
capable of exerting fo nmch felf- command over one of the moll 
ungovernable paflions of his nature. When indeed the animofuy 
of the fufFerer exceeds, as it almoft alv/ays does, what we can go 
along with, as we cannot enter into it, we neceflarily difapprove of 
it. We even difapprove of it more than we fhould of an equal 
excefs of almoft any other pafTion derived from the imagination. 
And this too violent refentment, inftead of carrying us along with 
it, becomes itfelf the obje6t of our refentment and indignation. We 
enter into the oppofite refentment of the perfon who is the object of 
this unjuft emotion, and who is in danger of fuffering from it. 
P.evenge, therefore, the excefs of refentment, appears to be the 
moft deteftable of all the paflions, and is the objed of the horror 
and indignation of every body. And as in the way in which this 
pafllon commonly difcovers itfelf among mankind, it is excelfive a 
hundred times for once that it is moderate, we are very apt to con- 
fider it as altogether oJious and deteftable, becaufe in its moft or- 
dinary appearances it is fo. Nature, however, even in the prefent 
depraved ftate of mankind, does not feem to have dealt fo unkindly 


Sedl. I. 0/ Merit and Demerit. 117 

with US, as to have endowed us with any principle which is 
wholly in eyery refpeft evil, or which, in no degree and in no direc- 
tion, can be the proper object of praife and approbation. Upon 
Tome occailons we are fenfible that this paflion, v/hich is generally 
too ftrong, nmy likewife be too weak. We fometimes complain 
that a particular perfon Ihews too little Ipirit, and has too little 
fenfe of the injuries that have been done to him^ and we are as 
ready to del pile him for the defect, as to hate him for the excefs of 
this pafTion. 

The infpired writers would not rarely have talked fo frequently 
or fo flrongly of the wrath and anger of God, if they had regarded 
every degree of thofe pailions as vicious and evil, even in fo weak 
and imperfect a creature as man. 

Let it be confidered too, that the prefent inquiry is not concern- 
ing a matter of right, if 1 may fay fo, but concerning a matter of 
fa6t. We are not at prefent examining upon what principles a per- 
fect being would approve of the punilhment of bad adions ; but 
upon what principles fo weak and imperfe<^ a creature as man 
actually and in fact approves of it. The principles which I have 
juft now mentioned, it is evident, have a very great effect upon his 
fentiments ; and it feems wifely ordered that it ihould be fo. The 
very exigence of fociety requires that unmerited and unprovoked 
malice ihould be retrained by proper puniihments ; and confc- 
quendy, that to inflitt thole punifliments Ihould be regarded as a 
proper and laudable adion. Though man, therefore, be naturally- 
endowed witk a defire of the welfare and prefervation of fociety, 
yet the Author of nature has not entrufted it to his reafon to find 
out that a certain application of punifliments is the proper means 
of attaining this end; but has endowed him with an immediate 
and inftinttive approbadon of that very application which is mofl 
proper to attain it. The Gsconomy of nature is in this rcfpeft ex- 
a<5tly of a piece with what it is upon many other occafions. With 
regard to all thofe ends which, upon account of their peculiar im- 
portance, may be regarded, if fuch an exprelTion is allowable, as 
the favourite ends of nature, fhe has conftantly in this manner not 
only endowed mankind with an appetite for the end which fhe pro- 
poles, but likewife with an appetite for the means by which alone 
this end can be brought about, for their own fakes, and independent 
of their tendency to produce it. Thus felf prefervation, and the 
propagation of the fpecies, are the great ends which Nature fcems 
to have propofed in the formation of all animals. Mankind are 

I j endowed 

Ii8 Of and DiLME?ar. Part II. ' 

endowed vvlth a defire of thofe ends, and an averfion to the contra^ 
TV ; with a love of life, and a dread of diffolution ; with a delire 
of the continuance and perpetuity of the fpecies, and with an aver- 
fion to the thoughts of its intire extintlion. Eut though we are in 
this manner endowed with a very llrong defire of thofe ends, it has 
not been intrufted to the Hov/ and uncertain determinations, of our 
reafon, to find out the proper means of bringing them about. Na- 
ture has directed us to the greater part of thefe by original and 
immediate infl:in(St3. Hunger, thirft, the paffion which unites 
the two fexes, the love of pleafure, and the dread of pain, prompt 
us to apply thofe means for their own fakes, and without any con- 
fideration of their tendency to thofe benencetit ends which the 
great Director of nature intended to produce by them. 

Before I conclude this note, I muft take notice of a difference 
between the approbation of propriety and that of merit or benefi- 
cence. Before we approve of the fentiments of any perlon as pro- 
per and fuitable to their objects, we mull not only be affeiited in the 
fame manner as he is, but we muH: perceive this harmony and cor- 
refpondence of fentiments between him and ourfelves. Thus, 
though upon hearing of a misfortune that had befallen my friend, 
I fhould conceive precifely that degree of concern v/hich he gives 
way to J yet till I am informed of the manner in which he behaves, 
till I perceive the harmony between his emotions and mine, I cannot 
be faid to approve of the fentiments which influence his behaviour. 
The approbation of propriety therefore requires, not only that we 
Ihould intlrely fympathize with the peifon who a6ts, but that we 
fhould perceive this perfeft concord between his fentiments and our 
own. On the contrary, when I hear of a benefit that has been be- 
llowed upon another peifon, let him who has received it be affe6led 
in what manner he pleafes, if, by bringing his cafe home to myfelf, 
I feel gratitude arifein my ov/n breafi:, 1 necefiarlly approve of the 
condua of his benefaftor, and regard it as meritorious, and the pro- 
per objed of rev/ard. Whether the perfon who has received the 
benefit conceives gratitude or not, cannot, it is evident, in any degree 
alter our fentiments with regard to the merit of him who has beftow 
ed it. No a6tual correfpondence of fentiments, therefore, Is here re- 
quired. It is fjfficient that if he was grateful, they would correl- 
pond ; and our fenfe of merit is often founded upon one of thofe 
illufive fympathies, by which, when we bring home to ourfelves the 
cafe of another, we are often affeded in a manner in which the per- 
fon principally concerned is incapable of being affeded. There is a 
fimliar ditierence between our difapprobation of demerit, and that of 
impropriety. SEC- 

Sed. 2. QTMerit ^;/^ Demerit. 119 


Of juflice and beneficence, 


Comparifon of thofe two virtues. 


.CTIONS of a beneficent tendency, which pro- 
ceed from proper motives, feem alone to require 
reward ; bccaufe fuch alone are the approved ob- 
jedts of gratitude, or excite the fympathetic grati- 
tude of the fpedator, 

Adions of a hurtful tendency, which proceed from 
improper motives, feem alone to deferve punifh- 
ment ; becaufe fuch alone are the approved ubjedls of 
refentment, or excite the fympathetic refentment of 
the fpedator. 

Beneficence is always free, it cannot be extorted 
by force, the mere want of it expofes to no punifh- 
ment ; becaufe the mere want of beneficence tends 
to do no real pofitive evil. It may difappoint of the 
good which might reafonably have been expedted, 
and upon that account it mayjuflly excite diflike 
and difapprobation : it cannot, however, provoke 

I 4 any 

I20 Of Merit and Demerit. Part IL 

any refentment which mankind will go along v/ith. 
The man who does not recompenfe his benefactor, 
when he has it in his power, and when his benefadlor 
needs his afiiftance, is, no doubt, guilty of the black- 
eft ingratitude. The heart of every impartial fpec- 
tator rejeds all fellow-feeling with the felfifhnefs of 
his motives, and he is the proper objecl of the highefl 
difapprcbation. But flill he does no pofitive hurt 
to any body. He only does not do that good which 
in propriety he ought to have done. He is the ob- 
ject of hatred, a paflion which is naturally excited by 
impropriety of fentiment and behaviour ; not ofrefent- 
ment,a paflion which is never properly called forth but 
by actions which tend to do real and pofitive hurt 
to fome particular perfons. His want of gratitude, 
therefore, cannot be punillied. To oblige him by 
force to perform what in gratitude he ought to per- 
form, and what every impartial fpedator would ap- 
prove of him for performing, would if poflible, be 
Hill more improper than his negledting to perform it. 
His benefactor would difhonour himfelf if he attempt- 
ed by violence to conftrain him to gratitude, and it 
would be impertinent for any third perfon, who was 
not the fuperior of either, to intermeddle. But of all 
the duties of beneficence, 4.hofe which gratitude re- 
commends to us approach nearell to what is called 
a perfedt and complete obligation. What friend- 
fliip, what generofity, what charity, would prompt 
^s to do with univerfal approbation, is flill more free, 
and c^n flill lefs be extorted by force than the 
duties of gratitude. We talk of the debt of grati- 
tude, not of charity, or generofity, nor even of friend- 
Hiip, when friendfhin is mere efleem, and has not 
been enhanced and complicated with gratitude for 

good offices. 


Sedl. 2. Of Merit rt?/.'/ Demerit. izi 

RefentmePit feems to have been given us bv na- 
ture for defence, and for defence only. It is the 
fafeguard of juflice and the fecurity of innocence. 
It prompts us to beat off the mifchief which is at- 
tempted to be done to us, and to retaliate that which 
is ah'eady done ; that the offender may be made to 
repent of his injuftice, and that others, through fear 
of the like punifhment, may be terrified from being 
guilty of the like offence. It mufl be referved 
therefore for thefe purpofes, nor can the fpedator 
ever go along with it when it is exerted for any 
other. But the mere want of the beneficent virtues, 
though it may difappoint us of the good v/hich 
might reafonably be expected, neither does, nor at- 
tempts to do, any mifchief from which we can have 
occafion to defend ourfelves. 

There is however another virtue, of which the ob- 
fervance is not left to the freedom of our own wills, 
which may be extorted by force, and of which the 
violation expofes to refentment, and confequently to 
punifhment. This virtue is juflice : the violation of 
juflice is injury : it does real and pofitive hurt to 
fome particular perfons, from motives which are na- 
turally difapproved of. It is, therefore, the proper 
objedt of refentment, and of punifhment, which is 
the natural coniequence of refentment. As man- 
kind go along with, and approve of, the violence 
employed to avenge the hurt which is done by in- 
juflice, fo they much more go along with, and ap- 
prove of, that which is employed to prevent and 
beat off the injury, and to reflrain the offender 
from hurting his neighbours. The perfon himfelf 
who meditates an injuftice is fenfible of this, and 
feels that force may, with the utmofl propriety, be 


J22 0/ Merit ^;/^ Demerit. PartIL 

made ufe of, both by the perfon whom he is about 
to injure, and by others, either to obltrud the ex- 
ecution of his crime, or to punifh him -^^ hen he has 
executed it. And upon this is founded that re- 
markable diftincl:lon between juftice and all the 
other focial virtues, v/hich has of late been parti- 
cularly infifted upon by an author of very great 
and original genius, that we feel ourfeives to ba^ 
under a flrider obligation to ad according to juflice, 
than agreeably to friendihip, charity, or genero- 
fity ; that the practice of tliefe lafh mentioned vir- 
tues feems to be left in fome meafure to our own 
choice but that, fomehow or other, we feel our- 
feives to be in a peculiar manner tied, bound, and 
obliged to the obfervation of juflice. We feel, 
that is to fay, that force may, with the utinofh pro- 
priety and with the approbation of all mankind, 
be made ufe of to conftrain us to obferve the rules 
of the one, but not to follow the precepts of the 

We muft always, however, carefully diflinguifh 
what is only blamable, or the proper objedl of dif- 
approbation, from what force may be employed ei- 
ther to punifh or to prevent. That feems blamable 
which falls fhort of that ordinary degree of proper 
beneficence which experience teaches us to exped 
of every body ; and on the contrary, that feems 
praife-worthy which goes beyond it. The ordinary 
degree itfelf, feems neither blamable nor praife- 
worthy. A father, a fon, a brother, who behaves 
to the correfpondent relation, neither better nor 
worfe than the greater part of men commonly do, 
feems properly to deferve neither praife nor blame. 
He who furpnfes us by extraordinary and unexpedt- 


Sed, 2. 0/ Merit ^;7^ Demerit. 123" 

ed, though ft ill proper and fuitable kindnefs, or on 
the contrary, by extraordinary and unexpeded, as 
well as unfuitable unkindnefs, ieems praife-worthy in 
the one caie, and blamable in the other. 

Even the moil ordinary degree of kindnefs or be- 
neticence, however, cannot, among equals, be ex- 
torted by force. Among equals each individual is 
naturally, and antecedent to the inftitution of ci- 
vil government, regarded as having a right both to 
defend himfelf from injuries, and to exa6t a certain 
degree of punilhment for thofe which have been 
done to him. Every generous fpe(5lator not only ap- 
proves of his conduct when he does this, but enters 
fo far into his fentiments as often to be willing: to 
aflill him. When one man attacks, or robs, or at- 
tempts to murder another, all the neighbotirs take the 
alarm, and think that they do right when they run, 
cither to revenge the perfon who has been injured, or 
to defend him who is in danger of being fo. But when 
a father fails in the ordinary degree of parental af- 
fection towards a fon ; when a fon feems to want that 
filial reverence which might be expetled to his father ; 
when brothers are without the ufual degree of bro- 
therly affedtion ; when a fhuts his breaft againil 
.companion, and refufes to relieve the mifery of his 
fellow-creatures, when he can with the greatefl eafe ; 
in all thefe cafes, though every body blames the 
condudt, nobody imagines that thofe who might 
have reafon, perhaps, to expert more kindnefs, 
have any right to extort it by force. The fufferer 
can only complain, and the fpedator can intermed- 
dle no other way than by advice and perfuafion. 
Upon all fuch occafions, for equals to ufe force 


124 0/ Merit /7«<^ Demerit. Part IL 

againfl one another, would be thought the higheft 
degree of infolence and prefumption. 

A fuperior may, indeed, fometiraes, v/ith univer- 
fal approbation, oblige thofe under his jurifdicftioa 
to behave, in this refpect, with a certain degree of 
propriety to one another. The laws of all civilized 
nations oblige parents to maintain their children, 
and children to maintain their parents, and impofe 
upon men many other duties of beneficence. The, 
civil magiitrate is entrufted with the pov/er not only 
of preferving the public peace by reilraining injuf- 
tice, but of promoting the profperity of the com- 
monwealth, by eftablifliing good dii'cipline, and by 
difcouraging every fort of vice and impropriety ; 
he may prefcribe rules, therefore, which not only 
prohibit mutual injuries among fellow citizens, but 
command mutual good offices to a certain degree. 
When the fovereign commands what is merely in- 
different, and what, antecedent to his orders, miglit 
have been omitted without any blame, it becomes 
not only blamable but punifhable to difobey him. 
When he commands, therefore, what, antecedent 
to any fuch order, could not have been omitted with- 
out the greateft blame, it furely becomes much more 
punifhable to be wanting in obedience. Of all the 
duties of a law-giver, however, this, perhaps, is 
that which it requires the greateft delicacy and re- 
ferve to execute with propriety and judgment. To 
neglect it altogether expofes the common-wealth to 
many gfofs diforders and fhocking enormities, and 
to pufh it too far is deitrudtive of all liberty, fe- 
curity, andjuftice. 


ScCt. 2. Of Merit ^^2^ Demerit. 125 

Though the mere want of beneficence feems to 
merit no punifliment from equals, the greater ex- 
ertions of that virtue appear to deferve the higheft 
rev/ard. By being produdive of the greateft good, 
they are the natural and approved objects of the 
livelieft gi'atitude. Though the breach of juflice, 
on the contrary, expofes to punifhment, the obfer- 
vance of the rules of that virtue feems fcarce to de- 
ferve any reward. There is, no doubt, a propriety 
in the pradice of juilice, and it merits, upon that 
account, all the approbation which is due to pro- 
priety. ^ But as it does no real pofitive good, it is 
entitled to very little gratitude. Mere juftice is, 
upon moil occafions, but a negative virtue, and 
only hinders us from hurting our neighbour. The 
man who barely abflains from violating either the 
perfon, or the eftate, or the reputation of his neigh- 
bours, has furely very little pofitive merit. He 
fulfils, hov/ever, all the rules of what is peculiarly 
called jullice, and does everything which his equals 
can v/lth propriety force him to do, or which they 
can punifh him for not doing. We may often fulfil 
all the rules of juftice by fitting ftill and doing no- 

As every man doth, fo (hall it be done to him, 
and retaliation feems to be the great law which is 
didated to us by Nature. Beneficence and gene- 
rofity we think due to the generous and beneficent. 
Thofe whofe hearts never open to the feelings of 
humanity, fhould, we think, be fhut out in the 
fame manner, from the affedlions of all their fellow- 
creatures, and be allowed to live in the midft of fo- 
ciety, as in a great defert where there is no-body to 
care for them, or to inquire after them. The vio- 

126 Of Merit and Demerit. Part IL 

latorof the laws of juftice ought to be made to feel 
himfelf that evil which he has done to another ; and 
fmce no regard to the fufferings of his brethren are 
capable of retraining him, he ought to be over- awed 
by the fear of his own. The man who is barely in- 
nocent, who only obferves the law of juflice with 
regard to others, and. merely abftains from hurting 
his neighbours, can merit only that his neighbours 
in their turn fhould refped his innocence, and that 
the fame laws fhould berehgioufly obferved withre- 
o:ard to him. 


Of the fenfe of juftice^ of remorfe^ and of the cojifn 
mifnefs of merit. 

X HERE can be no proper motive for hurting 
our neighbour, there can be no incitement to do evil 
to another, which nlankind will go along with, ex- 
cept jufl indignation for evil which that other has 
done to us. To difturb his happinefs merely be- 
caufe it Hands in the way of our own, to take from 
him what is of real ufe to him merely becaufe it may 
be of equal or more ufe to us, or to indulge, in this 
manner, at the expence of other people, the natural 
preference which every man has for his own happi- 
nefs above that of other people, is what no impar- 
tial fpedtator can go along with. Every man is, no 
doubt, by nature, firfh and principally recommend- 
ed to his own care j and as he is litter to take care 


Sedl. 2. Of Merit and Demerit . 127 

of himielf than of any other perfon, it is fit and right 
that it fhould be fo. E^ery man, therefore, is much 
more deeply interefled in whatever immediately 
concerns himfelf, than in what concerns any other 
man: and to hear, perhaps, of the death of another 
perfon, with whom we have no particular connexion, 
will give us lefs concern, will fpoil our ftomach, or 
break our refl much lefs than a very infignificant 
difaiter which has befallen ourfelves. But though 
the ruin of our neighbour may affedt us much lefs 
than a very fmall misfortune of our own, we mull 
not ruin him to prevent that fmall misfortune, nor 
even to prevent our own ruin. We muft, here, as 
in all other cafes, view ourfelves not fo much ac- 
cording to that light in which we may naturally ap- 
pear to ourfelves, as according to that in which we 
naturally appear to others. Though every man 
may, according to the proverb, be the whole world 
to himfelf, to the reft of mankind he is a moft infig- 
nificant part of it. Though his own happinefs may 
be of more importance to him than that of all the 
v/orld befides, to every other perfon it is of no more 
confequence than that of any other man. Though 
it may be true, therefore, that every individual, in 
his own breaft, naturally prefers himfelf to all man- 
kind, yet he dares not look mankind in the face, 
and avow that he ad\s according to this principle. 
He feels that in this preference they can never go 
along with him, and that hov/ natural foever it may 
be to him, it muft alv/ays appear exceHive and ex- 
travagant to them. Wlien he views himfelf in the 
light in which he is confcious that others will view 
him, he fees that to them he is but one of tlie mul- 
titude in no refpedt better than any other in it. If 
he would adl fo as that the impartial fpedator may 


128 Of Merit ^//^ Demerit. Part IL 

enter into the principles of his conduct, which is 
what of all things he has the greateft defire to do, 
he niiift, upon this, as upon all other occafions, 
humble the arrogance of his felf-love, and bring it 
down to fomething which other men can go along 
with. They will indulge it fo far as to allow him 
to be more anxious about, and to purfue with more 
earneft alTiduitv , his own happinefs than that of any 
other perfon. Thus far, whenever they place them- 
felves in his fituation, they will readily go along with 
him. In the race for wealth and honours, and pre- 
ferments, he may run as hard as he can, and ftrain- 
every nerve and every mufcle, in order to outftrip 
all his competitors. But if he (hould juftle, or throw 
down any of them, the indulgence of the fpedlators 
is entirely at an end. It is a violation of fair play, 
which they cannot admit of. This man is to them, 
in every refpedl, as good as he : they do not enter 
into that felf-love by which he prefers himfelf fb 
much to this other, and cannot go along with the 
motive from which he hurt him. They readily, 
therefore, fympathize with the natural refentment 
of the injured, and the offender becomes the objedt 
of their hatred and indignation. He is fenfible that 
he becomes fo, and feek that thofe fentinients are 
ready to burfl out from all fides againfl him; 

As the greater and more irreparable the evil- that 
is done, the refentment of the fufferer rtins naturally 
the higher, fo does likewife the fympathetic indigo- 
nation of the fpedtalor, as well as the fenfe of guilt 
in the agent. Death is the greatefl: evil which oiie 
man can inflidt upon another, and excites the high- 
eft degree of refentment in thofe who are immf^di- 
ately conneded with the flain. Murdidr, therefore, 


Sed. 2 0/ Merit ^/2^ Demerit. 129 

is the moil altrocious of all crimes which affedl in-^ 
dividuals only, in the fight both of mankind, and of 
theperfon who has committed it. To be deprived 
of that which we are poiTeffed of, is a greater evil 
than to be difappointed of what we have only the 
expedation. Breach of property, therefore, theft 
and robbery, which take from us what we are pof- 
feffed of, are greater crimes than breach of contrad: 
which only difappoints us of what we expeded. 
The moll facred laws of juftice, therefore thofe 
v/hofe violation feems to call the loudefl for ven- 
geance and punifhment, are the laws which guard 
the life and perfon of our neighbour ; the next are 
thofe which guard his property and pofleiTioris ; and 
laft of all come thofe which guard what are called 
his perfonal rights, or what is duetto him from the 
promifes of others. 

The violator of the more facred laws of juilice 
can never refledt on the fentiments which mankind 
mull entertain with regard to him, without feeling 
all the agonies of fhame, and horror, and confter- 
nation. When his paflion is gratified, and he be- 
gins coolly to refled upon his condudt, he can enter 
into none of the motives w^hich influenced it. They 
appear now as detellable to him as they did always 
to other people. By fympathizing with the hatred 
and abhorrence which other men mull entertain for 
him, he becomes in fome meafure the obje<5t of his 
own hatred and abhorrence. The fituation of the 
perfon, who fuflfered by his injuflice, now calls upon 
his pity. • He is grieved at the thought of it ; re- 
grets the unhappy efFeds of his own condud, and 
feels at the fame time that they have rendered him 
the proper objed of the refentment and indignatiopx 

K of 

i^o Of Merit and DexMERit. Part II, 

of mankind, and of what is the natural confequence 
of refentment, vengeance and punilliment. The 
thought of this perpetually haunts him, and fills 
him with terror and amazement. He dares no lon- 
ger look fociety in the face, but imagines himfelf 
as it were rejected, and thrown out from the affec- 
tions of all mankind. He cannot hope for the con- 
folation of fympathy in this his greateil, and moft 
dreadful diftrefs. The remembrance of his crimes 
has fhut out all fellow-feelings with him from 
the hearts of his fellow-creatures. The fenti- 
ments which they entertain with regard to him, are 
the very thing which he is m.oil afraid of. Every 
thing feems hoftile, and lie would be glad to fly to 
fome inhofpitable defert, where he might nevermore 
behold the face of a human creature, nor read in 
the countenance of mankind the condemnation of 
his crimes. But folitude is flill more dreadful than 
fociety. His own thoughts can prefent him with 
nothing but what is black, unfortunate, and difall- 
rous, the melancholy forebodings of incomprehen- 
fible mifery and ruin. The horror of folitude drives 
him back into fociety, and he comes again into the 
prefence of mankind, aflonifhed to appear before 
them, loaded with fhame and diftradted with fear, 
in order to fupplicate fome little protection from the 
countenance of thofe very judges, w^ho he kno^v^ s 
have already all unanimoufly condemned him. Such 
is the nature of that fentiment, which is properly 
called remorfe ; of all the fentiments which can en- 
ter the human breaft the mofi: dreadful. It is made 
up of fhame from the fenfe of the impropriety of 
pafl conduct ; of grief for the effeds.of it ; of pity 
for thofe who fuffer by it ; and of the dread and ter- 
ror of punifhment from the confcioufnefs of the juft- 
ly provoked refentment of all rational creatures. 


Sed. 2. 0/Merit ^;;^Demerit. 131 

The oppofite behaviour naturally infpires the op- 
pofite fentiment. The man who, not from frivo- 
lous fancy, but from proper motives, has perform- 
ed a generous adlion, when he looks forward to 
thofe whom he has ferved, feels himfelf to be the 
natural objed of their love and gratitude, and, by 
fympathy with them, of the efteem and approba- 
tion of all mankind. And when he looks back- 
w^ard to the motive from which he atted, and fur- 
veys it in the light in which the indifferent fpedator 
will furvey it, he ftill continues to enter into it, and 
applauds him.felf by fympathy with the approbation 
of this fuppofed impartial judge. In both thefe 
points of view his own condudl appears to him 
every way agreeable. His mind, at the thought of 
it, is filled with cheerfulnefs, ferenity, and compo- 
fure. He is in friendfhip and harmony with all 
mankind, and looks upon his fellow-creatures with 
confidence and benevolent fatisfadtion, fecure that 
he has rendered himfelf worthy of their moil favour- 
able regards. In the combination of all thefe fenti- 
ments confifts the confcioufnefs of merit, or of de- 
fer ved reward. 

K 2 CHAP, 

132 0/ Merit ^?;rf. Demerit. Part II. 


Of the utility of this conftitiition of nature. 

J[T is thus that man, who cain fubfiil only in lo- 
ciety, \\as fitted by nature to that fituationfor whuch 
he was made. All the members of human fociety 
Hand in need of each others afliftance, and are like- 
wife expofed to mutual injuries. Where thenecef- 
fary afliftance is reciprocally afforded from love, 
from gratitude, from friendfhip and efteem, the 
fociety flourifhes and is happy. All the different 
members of it are bound together by the agreeable 
bands of love and affedtion, and are, as it were, 
drawn to one common centre of mutual good of- 

But though the neceffary affiftance fhould not be 
afforded from fuch generous and difmterefted mo- 
tives, though among the different members of the 
fociety there fhould be no mutual love and affe(5tion, 
the fociety, though lefs happy and agreeable, will 
not necellarily be diffolved. Society may fubfift 
among different men, as among different merchants, 
from a fenfe of its utility, without any mutual love 
or affection ; and though no man in it fhould owe 
any obligation, or be bound in gratitude to any 
other, it may ftill be upheld by a mercenary ex- 
change of good offices according to an agreed va- 


Se£l. 2. 0/ Merit ^^^^ Demerit, 135 

Society, however, cannot fubfift among thofe 
who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one 
another. The moment that injury begins, the mo- 
ment that mutual i-eientment and animofity take 
place, all the bands of it are broke afunder, and the 
different members of which it confiiled are, as it 
were, dillipated and fcattered abroad by the violence 
and oppofition of their difcordant afFedlions. If 
there is any fociety robbers and murderers, 
they muft at lead, according to the trite obfervation, 
abflain from robbing and murdering one another. 
Beneficence, therefore, is lefs ellential to the exifl- 
ence of fociety than jufllce. Society may fubfift, 
though not in the mofh comfortable ftate, without 
beneficence ; but the prevalence of injuflice muft 
utterly deftroy it. 

Though Nature, therefore, exhorts mankind to 
adls of beneficence, by the pleafmg confcioufnefs of 
deferved reward, flie has not thought it neceffary to 
guard and enforce the practice of it by the terrors 
of merited punifhment in cafe it fhould be ne«-ledt- 
ed. It is the ornament which embeilifhes, not the 
foundation which fupports the building, and which 
it was, therefore, fufficient to recommend, but by 
no means neceffary to impofe. Juftice, on the con- 
trary, is the main pillar that upholds the whole edi- 
fice. If it is removed, the great, thejmmenfe fa- 
bric of human fociety, that fabric which ta raife and 
fupport feems in this world, if I may fay fo, to have 
been the peculiar and darling care of Nature, muft 
in a moment crumble into atoms. In order to en- 
force the obferv^ation of juftice, therefore, Nature 
has implanted in the human breaft that confciouf- 
nefs of ill-defert, thofe terrors of merited punifh- 

K 3 ment 

134 0/ Merit ^w^Deme^rit. Part If . 

ment which attend upon its violation, as the great 
fafe-guards of the aflbciation of mankind, to pro- 
ted the weak, to curb the violent, and to chaftife 
the guilty. Men, though naturally fympathetic, feel 
fo little for another, with whom they have no par- 
ticular connexion, in comparifon for what they feel 
for themfelves -, the mifery of one, who is merely 
their fellow-creature, is of fo little im.portance ,to 
them in comparifon even of a fmall conveniency of 
their own ; they have it fo much in their power to 
hurt him, and may have fo many temptations to 
do fo, that if this principle did not {land up within 
them in his defence, and overawe them into a re- 
fpedl for his innocence, they would, like wild 
beafls, be at all times ready to fly upon him ; and 
a man would enter an aifembly of men as he enters 
a den of hons. 

In every part of the univerfe we obferve means 
adjufted with the niceft artifice to the ends which 
they are intended to produce -, and in the mecha- 
nifm of a plant, or animal body, admire how every 
thing is contrived for advancing the two great pur- 
pofes of nature, the fupport of the individual, and 
the propagation of the fpecies. But in thefe, and 
in all fuch objeds, we flill dillinguifh the efficient 
from the final caufe of their feveral motions and or- 
ganizations. The digeftion of the food, the circu- 
lation of the blood, and the fecretion of the feve- 
ral juices which are drawn from it, are operations all 
of them necelTary for the great purpofes of animal 
life. Yet we never endeavour to account for them 
from thofe purpofes as from their efficient caufes, 
nor imagine that the blood circulates, or that the 
food digeits of its own accord, and with a view or 


Sed. 2. Of Merit and Demerit. 135 

intention to the purpofes of circulation or digeftion. 
The wheels of the watch are all admirably adjufled 
to tlie end for which it was made, the pointing of 
the hour. All their various motions confpire in the 
niceit manner to produce this effed. If they were 
endowed with a defire and intention to produce it, 
they could not do it better. Yet we never afcribe 
any fuch defire or intention to them, but to the 
watch-maker, and we know that they are put in mo- 
tion by a fpring, which intends the effect it pro- 
duces as little as they do. But though, in account- 
ing for the operations of bodies, we never fail to 
dillinguifh in this manner the efficient from the final 
caufe, in accounting for thofe of the mind ,^ we are 
very apt to confound thofe two different things with 
one another. When by natural principles we are 
led to advance thofe ends, which a refined and en- 
lightened reafon Ihould recommend to us, we are 
very apt to impute to that reafon, as to their efficient 
caufe, the fentiments and adtions by which we ad- 
vance thofe ends, and to imagine that ta-be the wif- 
dom of man, which in reality is the wqfdom of God. 
Upon a fuperficial view this caufe feems fufficient to 
produce the effeds which are afcribed to it ; and the 
fyftem of human nature feems to be more fimple 
and agreeable when all its different operations are in 
this manner deduced from a fingle principle. 

As fociety cannot fubfifl unlefs the laws of juflice 
are totally obferved, as no focial inter courfe can take 
place among men who do not generally abftain 
from injuring one another; the confideration of this 
neceffity, it has been thought, was the ground upon 
which we approved of the enforcement of the laws 
of juflice by the punifhment of thofe who violated 

K 4 them. 

136 0/ Merit ^w^ Demerit. Part II. 

them. Man, it has been faid, has a natural love 
for foclety, and defires that the union of mankind 
fhould be preferved for its own fake, and though he 
himfelf was to derive no benefit from it. The or- 
derly and flourifhing flate of fociety is agreeable to 
him, and he takes delight in contemplating it. Its 
diforder and confufion, on the contrary, is the ob- 
ject of his averfion, and he is chagrined at whatever 
tends to produce it. He is fenfible too that his own 
intereft is conneded with the profperity of fociety, 
and that the happincfs, perhaps the prefervation of 
his exiftence, depends upon its prefervation. Upon 
every account, therefore, he has an abhorrence at 
whatever can tend to deftroy fociety, and is willing 
to make uie of every means, which can hinder fo 
hated and fo dreadful an event. Injuflice necelTa- 
rily tends to deftroy it. Every appearance of in- 
juflice, therefore, alarms him, and he runs, if I may 
fay fo, to ftop the progrefs of v/hat, if allowed to go 
on, w^ould quickly put an end to every thing that is 
dear to hite. If he cannot reftrain it by gentle and 
fair means, he muft bear it dov/n by force and vio- 
lence, and at any rate m.uft put a flop to its fur- 
ther progrefs. Hence it is, they fay, that he often 
approves of the enforcement of the lawof juftice 
even by the capital punifhment of thofe who vio- 
late them. The diilurber of the public peace is 
hereby removed out of the v/orld, and others are 
terrified by his fate from imitating his example. 

Such is the account commonly given of our ap- 
probation of the punifhment of injuftice. And fo 
far this account is undoubtedly true, that we fre- 
quently have occafion to confirm our natural fenfe 
of the propriety and fitaefs of puaiiliment, by reflec- 

Sedi. 2.. Of Merit ^//^/Demekit, 137 

ting how necefTary it is for preferving the order of 
fociety. When the guilty is about to fufFer that 
juil retaliation, which the natural indignation of 
mankind tells them is due to his crimes ; when the 
infolence of his injuftice is broken and humbled by 
the terror of his approaching punifhment -, when he 
ceafes to be an objed of fear, with the generous and 
humane he begins to be an obje<fl of pity. The 
thought of what he is about to fufFer extinguifhes 
their refentment for the fufFerings of others to which 
he has given occafion. They are difpofed to par- 
don and forgive him, and to fave him from that pu- 
nilbment, which in all their cool hours they had con- 
fidered as the retribution due to fuch crimes. Here, 
therefore, they have occafion to call to their alTifl- 
ance the confideration of the general intereft of fo- 
ciety. They counterbalance the impalfe of this 
weak and partial humanity by the dictates of a hu- 
manity that is more generous and comprehenfive. 
They reflect that mercy to the guilty is cruelty to 
the innocent, and oppofe to the emotions of com- 
panion which they feel for a particular perfon, a 
more enlarged compaflion which they feel for man- 

Sometimes too we have occafion to defend the 
propriety of obferving the general rules of juflice by 
the confideration of their necelTity to the fupport of 
fociety. We frequently hear the young and the li- 
centious ridiculing the moft facred rules of morality, 
and profefling, fometimes from the corruption, but 
more frequently from the vanity of their hearts, the 
mofl abominable maxims of condudl. Our indig- 
nation roufes, and we are eager to refute and ex- 
pofe fuch deteflable principles. But though it is 


138 Of Merit and Dlmerit. Part If . 

their intrinfic hatefulnefs and deteftablenefs, which 
originally inflames us againft them, we are unwil- 
Hng to aflign this as the fole real on why we con-^ 
demn them, or to pretend that it is merely becaufe 
we ourfeives hate anddetefl them. The reafon, we 
think, would not appear to be conclufive. Yet 
why lliould it not ; if we hate and deteft them be- 
caufe they are the natural and proper objects of ha- 
tred and deteftation ? But v/hen we are aficed why 
we fhould not a6l in fuch or fuch a manner, the 
very queflion feems to fuppofe that, to thofe who 
afk it, this manner of ading does not appear to be 
for its own fake the natural and proper objedt of 
thofe fentiments. We muft fhow them, therefore, 
that it ought to be fo for the fake of fomething elfe. 
Upon this account we generally call about for other 
arguments, and the confideration which fnfl occurs 
to us is the diforder and confufion of fociety which 
would refult from the univerfal prevalence of fuch 
pradtices. We feldom fail, therefore, to infifl upon 
this topic. 

But though it commonly requires no great dif- 
cernment to fee the deftrudive tendency of all li- 
centious pradices to the welfare of fociety, it is fel- 
dom this confideration which firfl animates us a- 
gainfl them. All men, even the mod flupid and 
unthinking, abhor fraud, perfidy, and injuftice, and 
delight to fee them punifhed. But few men have re- 
fleded upon the neceility of juftice to the exiflence of 
fociety, how obvious foever that neceflity may ap- 
pear to be. 

That it is not a regard to the prefervation of fo- 
ciety, which originally interefts us in the punifhment 


Sed. 2. Of Merit and Demerit: 159 

of crimes committed againfl individuals, may be de- 
monflrated by many obvious confiderations. The 
concern which we take in ^'-e fortune and happinefs 
of individuals does not, in common cafes, arife from 
that which we take in the fortune and happinefs of 
fociety. We are no more concerned for the de- 
itrudtion or lofs of a fingle, becaufe this man is 
- a member or part of fociety, and becaufe we fhould 
be concerned for the deflrudion of fociety, than we 
are concerned for the lofs of a fmgle guinea, becaufe 
this guinea is a part of a thoufand guineas, and be- 
caufe we fhould be concerned for the lofs of the 
whole fum. In neither cafe does our regard for the 
individuals arife from our regard for the multitude : 
but in both cafes our regard for the multitude is 
compounded and made up of the particular regards 
which we feel for the different individuals of which 
it is ccmpofed. As when a fmall fum is unjuftly 
taken from us we do not fo much profecute the in- 
jury from a regard to the prefervation of our whole 
fortune, as from a regard to that particular fum 
which we have loft ; fo when a fingle man is injured 
or deftroyed, we demand the punifhment of the 
wrong that has been done to him, not fo much from 
a concern for the general intereft of fociety, as from 
a concern for that very individual who has been in- 
jured. It is to be obferved, however, that this 
concern does not necelfarily include in it any degree 
of thofe exquifite fentiments which are commonly 
called love, edeem, and aifedion, and by which we 
diltinguifh our particular friends and acquaintance. 
The concern which is requifite for this is no more 
than the general fellow-feeling which we have with 
every man merely becaufe he is our fellow-creature. 
We enter into the refentment even of an odious per- 


140 0/ Merit and Demerit, PartIL 

ion, when he is injured by thofe to he has 
given no provocation. Our difapprobation of his 
ordinary charadter and conduct, does not in this 
cafe altogether prevent our fellow-feeling with his 
natural indignation •, though with thofe who are not 
either extremely candid, or who have not been ac- 
cuftomed to correal and regulate their natural fenti- 
ments by general rules, it is very apt to damp it. 

Upon fome occafions, indeed, we both punifh 
and approve of punifhment, merely from a view to 
the general intereit of fociety, v.hich, v/e imagine, 
cannot otherwife be fecured. Of this kind are all 
the punifhments infilcled for breaches of what is 
called either civil police, or military dlfcipline. Such 
crimes do not immediately or directly hurt any par- 
ticular perfon ; but their remote confequences, it is 
fuppofed, do produce, or might produce, either a 
confiderable inconveniency, or a great diforder in 
the fociety. A centinel, for example, v/ho falls afleep 
upon his watch, faffers death by the law of v/ar, be- 
caufe fuch careleiTnefs miglit endanger the whole ar- 
my. This feverity may, upon many occafions, ap- 
pear neceifary, and, for that reafon, juft and proper. 
When the prefervation of an individual is incon- 
fiftent with the fafety of a multitude, nothing can be 
more juft than that the many fhould be preferred to 
the one. Yet this punifhment, how neceilary fo- 
ever, always appears to be exceflively fevere. The 
natural atrocity of the crime feems to be fo little, 
and the punidiment fo great, that it is with great 
difficulty that our hearts can reconcile itfelf to it. 
Though fuch careleiTnefs appears very blamable, 
yet the thought of this crime does not naturally ex- 
cite any fuch refentment, as would prompt us to 


Sed. 2. 0/ Merit and Demerit. 141 

take fuch dreadful revenge. A man of humanitj 
mufl: recoUedl himfelf, mufc make an effort, and ex- 
ert his whole iirmnefs and refclution, before he can 
bring himfelf either to inflxl it, or to go along with 
it when it is inflidled by others. It is not, however, 
in this manner, that he looks upon the juft puniili- 
ment of an ungrateful mAirderer or parricide. His 
heart, in this cafe, applauds with ardour, and even 
with tranfport, the juil retaliation which feems due 
to fuch deteftable crimes, and which, if, by any ac- 
cident, they fhouid happen to efcape, he would be 
highly enraged and difappointed. The very differ- 
ents fentiment ^vith which the fpectator views thofe 
different punirhments, is a proof that his approba- 
tion of the one is far from being founded upon 
the fame principles with that of the other. He looks 
upon the centinel as an unfortunate victim, who, in- 
deed, mud, and ought to be, devoted to the fafety 
of numbers, but whom Hill, in his heart, he would 
be glad to fave ; and he is only forty, that the inter- 
eft of the many fhouid oppofe it. Buf if the mur- 
derer fhouid efcape from punilhment, it would ex- 
cite his highefl indignation, and he would call upon 
God to avenge, in another world, that crime which 
the injuftice of mankind had negledted to chaftife 
upon earth. 

For it well defei'ves to be taken notice of, that we 
are fo far from imagining that injuftice ought to be 
punifhed in this life, merely on account of the or- 
der of fociety, which cannot otherwife be maintain- 
ed, tliat Nature teaches us to hope, and religion, we 
iuppofe, authorizes us to exped, that it will be pu- 
nifhed, even in a life to come. Our fenfe of its ill 
defert purfues it, if I may fay fo, even beyond the 


142 0/ Merit rt;/^ Demerit. Part II. 

grave, though the example of its ]:)iinirhment there 
cannot ferve to deter the rell of mankind, who fee 
it not, who know it not, from being guilty of the 
like practices here. The juilice of God, however, 
we think, ftill requires, that he fliould hereafter 
avenge the injuries of the widow and the fatherlefs, 
who are here ib often infulted with impunity. 

That the Deity loves virtue and hates vice, as a 
voluptuous man loves riches and hates poverty, not 
for their own fakes, but for the effeds which they 
tend to produce ^ that he loves the one, only becaufe 
it promotes the happinefs of fociety, which his be- 
nevolence prompts him to defire •, and that he hates 
the other, only becaufe it occafionsthe miferyof man- 
kind, which the fame divine quality renders the ob- 
jedt of his averfion ; is not the dodrine of untaught 
nature, but of an artificial refinement of reafon and 
philofophy. Our untaught, natural fentiments, all 
prompt us to believe, that as perfed virtue is fup- 
pofed neceiTarily to appear to the Deity, as it does 
to us, for its own fake, and without any further 
view, the natural and proper objedt of love and re- 
ward, fo mufl vice, of hatred and punifhment. 
That the gods neither refent nor hurt, was the ge- 
neral maxim of all the different feds of the ancient 
philofophy : and if, by refenting, be underftood, 
that violent and diforderly perturbation, which often 
diftracts and confounds the human breaft -, or if, by 
hurting, be underftood, the doing mifchief wanton- 
ly, and without regard to propriety or juftice, fuch 
weaknefs is undoubtedly unworthy of the divine 
perfection. But if it be meant, that vice does not 
appear to the Deity to be, for its own fake, the ob- 
jedt of abhorrence and averfion, and what, for its 


Seel. 2. 0/ Merit ^w^Demerit. 143 

own fake, it is fit and right (liould be puniilied, the 
truth of this maxim feems repugnant to fome very 
natural feelings. If we confult our natural fenti- 
ments, we are even apt to fear, left, before the ho- 
linefsof God, vice fhould appear to be more worthy 
of punifhment than the weaknefs and imperfedion 
of human virtue can ever feem to be of rewai-d. 
Man, when about to appear before a Being of infi- 
nite perfedion, can feel but little confidence in his 
own merit, or in the imperfed propriety of his own 
condu6t. In the prefence of his fellow-creatures, he 
may even juftly elevate himfelf, and may often have 
reafon to think highly of his own charatler and con- 
dud, compared to the ftill greater imperfedion of 
theirs. But the cafe is quite different when about to 
appear before his infinite Creator. To fuch a Be- 
ing, he fears, that his littlenefs and weaknefs can 
fcarce ever appear the proper objed, either of ef- 
teem or of reward. But he can eafily conceive, 
how the numberlefs violations of duty, of which he 
has been guilty, fhould render him the proper objed 
of averiion and punifhment ; and he thinks he can 
fee no reafon why the divine indignation fhould not 
be let loofe without any reftraint, upon fo vile an in- 
fed, as he imagines that he himfelf muft appear to 
be. If he would flill hope for happinefs, he fufpeds 
that he cannot demand it from the juflice, but that 
he muft entreat it from the mercy of God. Repent- 
ance, forrow, humility, contrition at the thought of 
his pall condud, feem, upon this account, the fen- 
timents which become him, and to be the only 
means which he has left for appeafing that wrath 
which, he knows, he has juftly provoked. He 
even diftrufts the efficacy of all thefe, and naturally 
fears, left the wifdom of God fhould not, like the 


144- 0/ Merit andDLUERir. Part II. 

weaknefs of man, be prevailed upon to fpare the 
crime by the moil importunate lamentations of the 
criminal. Some other interceflion, fome other fa- 
crifice, fome other atonement, he imagines muft be 
made for him, beyond what he himfelf is capable of 
making, before the purity of the divinejufhice can be 
reconciled to his manifold offences. The dodlrines 
of revelation coincide, in every refpe<fl, with thofe 
original anticipations of nature ; and as they teach us 
how little we can depend upon the imperfedion of 
our own virtue, fo they fhow us, at the fame time, 
that the mod powerful interceflion has been made, 
and that the moft dreadful atonement has been paid 
for our manifold tranfgreflions and iniquities. 


Sed. 3- 0/ Merit WDemerit* 145 


Of the influence of fortune upon the fentiments of 
mankind, with regard to the merit or demerit of 
ad ions. 



HATEVER praife or blame can be due to 
any adlion, muft belong either, firll, to the intention 
or affedion of the heart, from which it proceeds; 
or, fecondly, to the external adion or movement of 
the body, which this afFedion gives occafionto; or, 
lafl, to all the good or bad confequences, which ac- 
tually, and in fad, proceed from it. Thefe three 
different things conllitute the whole nature and cir- 
cumflances of the adion, and muit be the foundation 
of 'whatever quality can belong to it. 

That the two laft of thefe three circumftances can- 
not be the foundation of any praife or blame, is abun- 
dantly evident ; nor has the contrary ever been af- 
ferted by any body. The external adion or move- 
ment of the body is often the fame in the .mod in- 
nocent and in the moil blamable adions. " He who 
(hoots a bird, and he who (hoots a man, both of them 

I^ perforin 

146 Of Merit ^^^ Demerit. Pai't IL 

perform the fame external movement : each of them 
drav/s the tricker of a gun. The confequences 
which adlually, and in fadl, happen to proceed from 
any adion, are, if poilibie, fbili more indifferent 
either to praife or blame, thatl even the e:j{ternal 
movement of the body. As they depend, not up- 
on the agent, but upon fortune, they cannot be the 
proper foundation for any fentiment, of which his 
characfler and condu6t are the ohjedts. 

The only confequences for which he can be ati- 
fwerable, or by which he can deferve either approba- 
tion or difapprobation of any kind, are thofe which 
were fome way or other intended, or thofe which, 
at leaft, fhow fome agreeable or difagreeable quality 
in the intention of the heart, from which he aded. 
To the intention or affedion of the heart, therefore, 
to the propriety or impropriety, to the beneficence 
or hurtfulnefs of the defign, all praife or blame, all 
approbation or difapprobation, of any kind, which 
can juftly be beflowed upon any adion, mufh ulti- 
mately belong. 

When this maxim is thus propoted in abftrad and 
general terms, there is no body who does not agree 
to it. Its felf-evident juflice is acknowledged by 
all the v/orld, and there is not a diflenting voice 
among all mankind. Every 'body allows, that how 
* different foever the accidental, the unintended and 
unforefeen confequences of different adions, yet, if 
the intentions or affedions from which they arofe 
were, on the one Hand, equally proper and equally 
beneficent, or, on the other, equally improper and 
equally malevolent, the merit or demerit of the ac- 
tions is ilill the fame, aiid the agent is equally the 
fuitable objed either of gratitude or of refentment. 


Sed. 3. Of Merit and Demerit. f4y 

But how well foever v/e may feem to be perfuad- 
ed of the truth of this equitable maxim, when we 
confider it after this manner, in abflradl, yet when 
we come to particular cafes, the adtual confequences 
which happen to proceed from any adtion, have a 
very great effedt upon our fentiments concerning its 
merit or demerit, and almofb always either enhance 
or diminifh our fenfe of both. Scarce, in any one 
inllance, perhaps, will our fentiments be found, af- 
ter examination, to be entirely regulated by this^ 
rule, which we all acknowledge ought entirely to 
regulate them. 

This irregularity of fentiment, which every body 
feels, which fcarce any body is fufficiently aware of, 
and whicH no body is willing to acknowledge, I pro- 
ceed now to explain ; and I fhall confider, firft, the 
caufe which gives occafion to it, or the mechanifm' 
by which nature produces it ; fecondly, the extent 
of its influence; and, laft of all, the end which it 
anfwers, or the purpofe which the Author of nature 
feerns to have intended by it. 

La chap: 

148 Of Merit and Deuekit. Part II. 


Of the caufes of this mfliience of fortune. 

A HE caufes of pain and pleafure, whatever they 
are, or however they operate, feem to be the objeds, 
which, in all animals, immediately excite thofe two 
pafTions of gratitude and refentment. They are ex- 
cited by inanimated, as well as by animated objects. 
We are angry, for a moment, even at the ftone that 
hurts us. A child beats it, a dog barks at it, a cho- 
leric man is apt to curfe it. The leafl refle(f>ion, in- 
deed, corrects this fentiment, and we foon become 
fenfible, that what has no feeling is a very improper 
objedt of revenge. When the mifchief, however, 
is very great, the objed: which caufed it becomes 
difagreeable to us ever after, and we take pleafure 
to burn or deflroy it. We fhould treat, in this man- 
ner, the inftrument which had accidentally been the 
caufe of the death of a friend, and we fhould often 
think ourfelves guilty of a fort of inhumanity, if 
we negledled to vent this abfurd fort of vengeance 
upon it. 

We conceive, in the fame manner, a fort of gra- 
titude for thofe inanimated objeds, which have been 
the caufes of great, or frequent pleafure to us. The 
failor, who, as foon as he got afhore, fhould mend 
his fire with the plank upon which he had jufl ef- 


Sed. 3. 0/ Merit ^w^/ Demerit. 149 

caped from a fhipwreck, would feem to be guilty 
of an unnatural adion. We (liould exped that he 
would rather preferve it with care and affedion, as 
a monument that was, in lome meafure, dear to 
him. A man grows fond of a fnufF-box, of a pen- 
knife, of a ftaff which he has long made ufe of, and 
conceives fomething like a real love and affedion 
for them. If he breaks or lofes them, he is vexed 
out of all proportion to the value of the damage. 
The houfe which we have long lived in, the tree, 
whofe verdure and (hade we ha\« long enjoyed, 
are both looked upon with a fort of refped that 
feems due to fuch benefadors. The decay of the 
one, or the ruin of the other, affeds us with a kind 
of melancholy, though we fhould fuflain no lofs by 
it. The Dryads and the Lares of the ancients, a 
fort of genii of trees and houfes, were probably iirft 
fuggeiled by this fort of affedion, which the authors 
of thofe fuperftitions felt for fuch objeds, and which 
feemed unreafonable, if there was nothing animated 
about them. 

But', before any thing can be the proper objed of 
gratitude or refentment, it muft not only be the 
caufe of pleafure or pain, it muft likewife be capa- 
ble of feeling them. Without this other quality, 
thofe paliions cannot vent themfelves with any fort 
of fatisfadion upon it. As they are excited by the 
caufes of pleafure and pain, fo their gratification 
confifts in retaliating thofe fenfations upon what 
gave occafion to them ; which it is to no purpofe to 
attempt upon what has no fenfibility. Animals, 
therefore, are lefs improper objeds of gratitude and 
refentment than inanimated objeds. The dog that 
bites, the ox that gores, are both of them puniflied. 

L3 If 

^\SQ 0/^ Merit mtd Demerit. Part 11, 

If they have ^ been the caufes of the death of any per- 
son, neither the piibhc, nor the relations of the flain, 
,can be fatisfied, unlefs they are put to death in their 
,turn : nor is this merely for the fecurity of the liv- 
ing, but in fome meafure, to revenge the injury of 
,the dead, Thofe animals, on the contrary, that 
have been remarkably ferviceable to their rnafters, 
jbecomie the objeds of a very lively gratitude. We 
are fhocked at the brutality of that officer, mention- 
^ed in the Turkifh Spy, \vho flabbed the horfe that 
^had carried him a-crofs an arm of the fea, left that 
animal fliould afterwards diftinguifa fome ether per- 
fon by a fimilar adventure. 

But, though animals are not only the caufes of 
pleafure and pain, but are alfo capable of feeling 
, thofe, fenfations, they are flill far from being com- 
plete and perfedl objeds, either of gratitude or re- 
fentment • and thqfe paffions flill feel, that there is 
fomething wanting to their entire gratification. What 
gratitude chiefly defires, is not only to make the 
benefador feel pleafure in his turn, but to make him 
confcious that he meqts with this reward on account 
(C^f his p'4(l condud, to make him plea fed with that 
cqndud, and to fatisfy him that the perfqn upon 
)\^hom he beflowed his good offices was ^not unwor-i 
thy qfthem. What moil qf all charms us in our 
;benefadtor, is the concord between his fentiments 
and our own, with regard to what intereils us fo near- 
ly as Uie worth of our own character, and the efteem 
that is due to us. We are delighted to find a per- 
fon who values us as well as we value ourfelves, and 
diftinguiihes us from the reft of mankind, with an 
attention not unlike that with which we diftinguifn 
ourfelves. To maintain in him thefe agreeable and flat- 

Sedl. 3. . (y Merit <^;/^ Demerit. 151 

tering fentiments, is one of the chief ends propofed 
by the returns wc are difpofed to make to him. A 
generous mind often difdains the jntereiled thought 
of extorting new favours from its bene;fadtor, by 
what may be called the importunities of its grati- 
tude. But to preierye and to increafe his elleem, 
is an intereft which the greateft mind does not think 
unworthy of its attention. And this is the founda- 
tion of what I formerly obferved, that when we 
cannot enter into the motives of our benefador, 
when his condu(5l and charader appear unworthy of 
our approbation, let his fervices have been ever fo 
great, our gratitude is always fenfibly diminifhed. 
We are lefs flattered by the diilin<5tion ; and to pre- 
ferve the efteem of fo weak, or fo worthlefs a pa- 
ti'on, feems to be an object which does not deferve 
to be purfued for its own fake. 

The objedt, on the contrary, wliich refentment 
is chiefly intent upon, is not fo much to make our 
enemy feel pain in his turn, as to make him con- 
fcious that he feels it upon account of his paft con- 
dud, to make him repent of that condud, and to 
make him fenfible, that the perfon whom he injur- 
ed did not deferve to be treated in that manner. 
What chiefly enrages us againfl: the man who in- 
jures or infults us, is the little account which he 
feems to make of us, the unreafonable preference 
which he gives to himfelf above us, and that abfurd 
felf-love, by which he feems to imagine, that other 
people may be facrificed at any time, to his conve- 
niency or his humour. The glaring impropriety of 
this condud, the grofs infolence and injuftice which 
it feems to involve in it, often fliock and exafperate 
us more than all the mifchief which we have fuffered. 

L 4 To 

152 0/ Merit ^«^ Demerit. Part 11.^ 

To bring him back to a more juft fenfe of what is 
due to other people, to make him fenfible of what 
he owes us, and of the wrong that he has done to 
us, is frequently the principal end propofed in our 
revenge, which is always imperfedt when it cannot 
accomplifh this. When our enemy appears to have 
done us no injury, when we are fenfible that he ad- 
ed quite properly, that, in his fituation, we fhould 
have done the fame thing, and that we deferved 
from him all the mifchief wemet with; in that cafe, 
if we have the leaft fpark either of candour or juft ice, 
we can entertain no fort of refentment. 

Before any thing, therefore, can be the complete 
and proper objed, either of gratitude or refent- 
ment, it muft poffefs three different qualifications. 
Firft, it muft be the caufe of pleafure in the one cafe, 
and of pain in the other. Secondly, it muft be ca- 
pable of feeling thofe fenfations. And, thirdly, it 
muft not only have produced thofe fenfations, but 
it muft have produced them from defign, and from 
a defign that is approved of in the one cafe, and 
difapproved of in the other. It is by the lirft quali- 
fication, that any objedt is capable of exciting thofe 
pallions : it is by the fecond, that it is in any refpedt 
capable of gratifying them : the third qualification is 
both negeftary for their complete fatisfadtion, and as 
it gives a pleafure or pain that is both exquifite and 
peculiar, it is likewife an additional exciting caufe of 
thofe pallions, 

As what gives pleafure or pain, therefore, either 
in one way or another, is the fole exciting caufe of 
gratitude and refentment; though the intencions of 
jany perfon ftiould be ever fo proper and benefi- 

Sed. 3. 0/ Merit t?;?^ Demerit. 153 

cent, on the one hand, or ever fo improper and ma- 
levolent on the other -, yet, if he has failed in pro- 
ducing either the good or evil which he intended, as 
one of the exciting caufes is wanting in both cafes, 
lefs gratitude feems due to him in the one, and lefs 
refentment in the other. And, on the contrary, 
though in the intentions of any perfon, there was 
either no laudable degree of benevolence on the one 
.hand, or no blamable degree of malice on the other ; 
yet, if his adliuns fhould produce either great good 
or great evil, as one of the exciting caufes takes 
place upon both thefe occafions, fome gratitude is 
apt to arife towards him in the one, and fome re- 
fentment in the other. A fhadow of merit feems to 
fall upon him in the firft, a fhadow of demerit in the 
fecond. And, as the confequences of actions are al- 
together under the empire of Fortune, hence arifes 
her influence upon the fentiments of mankind, with 
regard to merit and demerit. 


154 0/Merit rt;/^DEMERiT. Part II. 

C H A P. II. 

Of the extent of this influence of fortune. 


H E effect of this influence of fortune is, firft^ 
to diminilli our fenfe of the merit or demerit of thofe 
actions which arofe from the mofl laudable or blam- 
able intentions, when they fail of producing their 
propofed effects : and, fecondiy, to encreafe our 
fenfe of the merit or demerit of adions, beyond 
what is due to the motives or affedtions froi^i 
which they proceed, when they accidentally give 
occafion either to extraordinary pleafure or pain. 

I. Firft, I fay, though the intentions of any perfon 
Ihould be ever fo proper and beneficent, on the 
one hand, or ever fo improper and malevolent, on 
the other, yet, if they fail in producing their effeds, 
his merit feems imperfect in the one cafe, and his 
demerit incomplete in the other. Nor is this irregu- 
larity of fentiment felt only by thofe who are imme-^ 
diately affefted by the confequences of any action. 
It is felt, in fome meafure, even by the impartial 
fpedtator. The man who folicits an office for ano- 
ther, without obtaining it, is regarded as his friend, 
and feems to defer ve his love and affedtion. But the 
man who not only folicits, but procures it, is more 
peculiarly confidered as his patron and benefactor, 
and is entitled to his refpedt and gratitude. The 
perfon obliged, we are apt to think, may with fome 


Sed. 3. 0/Merit and Demerit. 155 

juftlce, imagine himfelf on a level with the firft : 
but we cannot enter into his fentiments, if he does 
not feel himfeif inferior to the fecond. It is com- 
mon indeed to fay, that we are equally obliged to 
the man who has endeavoured to ferve us, as to 
him v/ho adually did fo. It is the fpeech which we 
conftantly make upon every unfuccefsful attempt of 
this kind ; but v/h^ch, like all otlier fine fpeeches, 
mufl be underflood with a grain of allowance. The 
fentiments which a man of generofity entertains for 
the friend who fails, may often indeed be nearly the 
fame with thofe v/hich he conceives for him who _ 
fucceeds : and the more generous he is, the more 
nearly will thofe fentiments approach to an exadt 
level. With the truly generous, to be beloved, to 
be efbeemed by thofe whom they themfelves tliink 
worthy of efteem, gives more pleafure, and thereby 
excites more gratitude, than all the advantages 
which they can ever expert from thofe fentiments. 
When they lofe thofe advantages therefore, they 
feem to lofe but a trifle, which is fcarce worth re- 
garding. They flill however lofe fomething. Their • 
pleafure therefore, and confequently their gratitude, 
is not perfedlly complete : and accordingly if, be- 
tween the friend who fails and the friend v/ho fuc- 
ceeds, all other circumftances are equal, there will, 
even in the nobleft and the befl mind, be fome little 
difference of affection in favour of him who fuc- 
ceeds. Nay, fo unjull are mankind in this rcfpecfl, 
that though the intended benefit fhould be procured, 
yet if it is not procured by the means of a particular 
benefa(ftor, they are apt to think that lefs gratitude 
is due to the man, who with the befl intentions in 
the world could do no more than help it a little for- 
ward. As their gratitude is in this cafe divided 


1 56 Of Me r I T and Demerit. Part H. 

among the different perfons who contributed to 
their pleafure, a fmallrr fhare of itfeems due to any 
one. Such a perfon, we hear men commonly fay, 
intended no doubt to ferve us ; and we really be- 
lieve exerted himfelf to the utmoft of his abilities 
for that purpofe. We are not, hov/ever, obliged to 
him for this benefit ; fmce had it not been for the 
concurrence of others, all that he could have done 
would never have brought it about. This confide- 
ration, they imagine, fhould, even in the eyes of the 
impartial fpedlator, diminifh the debt which they 
owe to hirn. The perfon himfelf v/ho has unfuccefs- 
fully endeavoured to confer a benefit, has by no 
means the fame dependency upon the gratitude of 
the man whom he meant to oblige, nor the fame 
fenfe of his own merit towards him, which he would 
have had in the cafe of fuccefs. 

Even the merit of talents and abilities which fome 
accident has hindered from producing Meir efFeds, 
feems in fome mcafure imperfe(!l, even to thofe who 
are fully convinced of their capacity to produce 
them. The general who has been hindered by the 
envy of miniflers from gaining fome great advan- 
tao-e over the enemies of his country, regrets the 
lof^ of the opportunity for ever after. Nor is it 
only upon account of the public that he regrets it. 
He laments that he was hindered from performing 
an action which would have added a new luftre to 
his character in his own eyes, as well as in thofe of 
every other perfon. It fatisfies neither himfelf nor 
otiiers to refled that the plan or defign was all that 
depended on him, that no greater capacity was re- 
quired to execute it than what was neceffary to con- 
cert it • that he v/as allowed to be every way capa- 

Se<fl. 3- 0/ Merit ^;?^ Demerit. 157 

bie of executing it, and that had he been permitted 
to go on, fucceis was infallible. He iiill did not 
execute it ; and though he might defer ve all tliC ap- 
probation which is due to a magnanimous and great 
defign, he flill wanted the adlual merit of having 
performed a great a6lion. To take the management 
of any affair of public concern from the man who has 
almofh brought it to a conclufion, is regarded as the 
moil invidious injuflice. As he had done fomuch, 
he (liould, we think, have been allowed to acquire 
the complete m.erit of putting an end to it. It was 
objeded to Pomoey, that he came in upon the victo- 
ries of Lucullus, and gathered thofe laurels which 
were due to the fortune and valour of another. The 
glory of Lucullus, it Teems, was lefs complete even 
in the opinion of his own friends, when he was not 
permitted to finilh that conquell which his condudt 
and courage had put in the power of almofh any man 
to finifh. It mortifies an architedl when his plans are 
either not executed at all, or when they are fo far al- 
tered as to fpoil the effedl of the building. The plan, 
however, is all that depends upon the architedl. The 
whole of his genius is, to good judges, as complete- 
ly difcovered in that as in the acluai execution. But 
a plan does not, even to the mofl intelligent, give 
tlie fame pleafure as a noble and magnificent build- 
ing. They may difcover as much both of tafle and 
genius in the one as in the other. But their effedts 
are ftill vaftly different, and the amufem.ent derived 
from the firft, never approaches to the wonder and 
admiration which are fometimes excited by the fe- 
cond. We may believe of many men, that their 
talents are fuperior to thofe of Caefar and Alexander ; 
and that in the fame lituations they would perform 
flill greater adions. la the mean time, however, 


15^ 0/ Merit ^W Demerit. Part II. 

we do not behold them with that aflonifnment and 
admiration with whidh thofe two heroes have been 
regarded in all ages and nations. The calm judg- 
ments of the mind may approve of them more, but 
they v/ant the fplendor of great adions to dazzle and 
tranfport it. The fuperiority of virtues and ^talents 
have not, even upon thofe who acknowledge that 
fuperiority, the fame effecfl ^^ith the fuperiority of 

As the merit of an unfuccefsful attempt to do good 
feems thus, m the eyes of ungrateful mankind, 
to be diminifhed by the mifcarriage, fo does like- 
wife the demerit of an unfuccefsful attempt to do evil. 
The defign to commit a crime, how clearly foever 
it may be proved, is fcarceever punifhed with the 
fame fe verity as the adual commiflion of it. The 
cafe of treafon is perhaps the only exception. That 
crime immediately afFedting the being of the govern- 
ment itfelf, the government is naturally more jealous 
of it than of any other. In the punifhment of trea- 
fon, the fovereign refents the injuries which are im- 
mediately done to himfelf : in the punifhment of 
other crimes, he refents thofe which are done to other 
men. It is his own refentment which he indulges in 
the one cafe : it is that of his fubjeds which by 
fympalhy he enters into it in the other. In the 
firft cafe, therefore, as he judges in his own caufe, 
he is very apt to be more violent and fanguinary in 
his punifhments than the impartial fpedator can ap- 
prove of. His refentrhent too rifes here upon fmaller 
occafions, and does not always, as in other cafes, 
wait for the perpetration of the crime, or even for 
the attempt to commit it. A treafonable concert, 
though nothing has been done, or even attempted in 
confequence of it, nay, a treafonable converfation, 


Sedt. 3. 0/ Merit rt7/<^ Demerit. 159 

is in many countries punifhed in the fame manner as 
the adlual commiHion of treafon. With regard to 
all other crimes, the mere defign, upon v/hich no 
attempt has followed, is feldom puniihed at all, and 
is never punimed feverely. A criminal defign, and 
a criminal action, it may be faid indeed, do not ne- 
ceifarily fuppofe thjs fame degree of depravit)', and 
ought not therefore to be fubjeded to the fame pu- 
nirhment. We are capable, it may be faid, of re- 
folving, and even of taking meafures to execute, 
many things which, when it comes to the point, v/e 
feel ourfelves altogether incapable of executino-. 
But this reafon can have no place v/hen the de- 
fign has been carried the length of the lad attempt. 
The man, hovt^ever, who fires a piftol at his enemy, 
but miffes him, is puniihed with death by the laws 
of fcarce any country. By the old law of Scotland^ 
though he fhould wound him, yet, unlefs death en- 
fues within a certain time, the alfairm is not liable to 
the laft punifhment, The refentment of mankind, 
' however, runs fo high againil this crime, their terror 
for the man who fhows himfelf capable of commit- 
ting it, is fo great, that the mere attempt to commit 
it ought in all countries to be capital. The attempt 
tocoiTimit fmaller crimes is alm.oft always punifhed 
very lightly, and fometimes is not punifhed at all. 
The thief, whofe hand has been caught in his neigh- 
bour's pocket^before he had taken any thing out of 
it, is punifhed with ignominy only. If he had got 
time to take away an handkerchief, he would have 
been put to death. The houfe- breaker, wlio has 
been found fetting a ladder to his neighbour's win- 
dow, but had not got into it, is not expofed to the 
capital punifhment. The attempt to ravifh is not 
punifhed as a rape. The attempt to feduce a mar- 

1 6a O/' Merit (7;/^ Demerit. Part IL 

ried woman is not pimifhed at all, though fedudtion 
is punifhed feverely. Our refentment againft the 
perTon who only attempted to do a mifchief, is fei- 
dom fo ftrong as to bear us out in infliding the fame 
punilTiment upon him, which we fhould have thought 
due if he had adtually done it. In the one cafe, th^ 
joy of our deliverance alleviates our fenfe of the atro- 
city of his condudt ; in the other, the grief of our 
misfortune increafes it. His real demerit, however, 
is undoubtedly the fame in both cafes, fmce his inten- 
tions were equally criminal : and there is in this ref- 
pedt, therefore, an irregularity in the fentiments of 
all men, and a confequent relaxation of difcipline in 
the laws of, I believe, all nations, of the mofi: civiliz- 
ed, as well as of the moft barbarous. Thu humani- 
ty of a civilized people difpofes them either to difpenfe 
v/ith, or to mitigate punifhments wherever their natu- 
ral indignation is not goaded on by the confequences 
of the crime. Barbarians, on the other hand, when 
no adlual confequence has happened from any action, 
are not apt to be very delicate or inquifitive about . 
the motives. 

The perfon himfelf who either from pafTion, or 
from the influence of bad company, has refolved^ 
and perhaps taken meafures to perpetrate fome 
crime, but who has fortunately been prevented by 
an accident which put it out of his power, is fure, if 
he has any remains of confcience, to regard this 
event all his life after as a great and fignal delive- 
rance. He can never think of it without returnino- 
thanks to Heaven for having been thus gracioufly 
pleafed to fave him from the guilt in which he was 
juii ready to plunge himfelf, and to hinder him from 
rendering all the reil of his life a fcene of horror, re- 
morfe, and repentance. But though his hands are 


Sed. 3 0/ Merit W Demerit. i6i 

innocent, he is confcious that his heart is equally 
guilty as \x he had aftually executed what he was fo 
fully refolved upon. It gives great eafe to his con- 
fcience, however, to confider that the crime was not 
executed, though he knows tliat the failure arofe 
from no virtue in him. He ftill confiders himfelf 
as lefs deferving of punifhment and refentment ; and 
this good fortune either diminiflies, or takes away 
altogether, all fenfe of guilt. To remember how 
much he was refolved upon it, has no other efFedt than 
to make him regard his efcape as the greater and 
more miraculous : for he ftill fancies that he has ef- 
caped, and he looks back upon the danger to which 
his peace of mind was expofed, with that terror, 
with which one who is in fafety may fometimes re- 
member the hazard he was in of falling over a pre- 
cipice, and fhudder with horror at the thought. 

2. The fecond effecft of this influence of fortune, 
is to increafe our fenfe of the merit or demerit of 
adions beyond what is due to the motives or affecli- 
on from which they proceed, when they happen to 
give occafion to extraordinary pleafure or pain. The 
agreeable or difagreeable efFedts of the adtion often 
throw a fhadow of merit or demerit upon the agent, 
though in his intention there was nothing that de- 
ferved either praife or blame, or atleaft that deferved 
them in the degree in which we are apt to beftow 
them. Thus, even the meflenger of bad news is 
difagreeable to us, and, on the corxtrar}^ we feel a 
fort of gratitude for the man who brings us good 
tidings. For a moment we look upon them both 
as the authors, the one of cur good, the other of our 
bad fortune, and regard them in fome meafure as 
if they had really brought about the events which 

M they 

i6z Of Merit and Demerit. Part IL 

they only give an account of. The firft author of 
our joy is naturally the objedt of a tranfit -ry grati- 
tude : v/e embrace him with warmth and affe(5tion, 
and fhould be glad, during the iniknt of our profpe- 
rity, to reward him as for fome fignal fervice. By 
the cuftom of all courts, the officer who brings the 
news of a victory, is entitled to confiderable prefer- 
ments, and the general always chules one of his 
principal favourites to go upon fo agieeable an er- 
rand. The firft author of our forrow is, on the con- 
trary, juft as naturally the objed of a tranfitory re- 
fentment. We can fcarce avoid looking upon him 
with chagrin and uneafmefs ; and the rude and bru- 
tal are apt to vent upon him that l|3leen which his in- 
telligence gives occafion to. Tigranes, King of 
Armenia, ftruck ofFthe head of the man who brought 
him the firfl account of the approach of a formida- 
ble enemy. To punifh in this manner the author of 
bad tidings, feems barbarous and inhuman : yet, to 
reward the meiTenger of good news, is not difagree- 
able to us •, we think it fuitable to the bounty of 
kings. But why do we make this difference, fmce, 
if there is no fault in the one, neither is there any 
merit in the other ? It is becaufe any fort of reafon 
feems fufficient to authorize the exertion of the focial 
and benevolent affedions -, but it requires the moft 
folid and fubftantial to make us enter into that of the 
unfocial and malevolent. 

But though in general we are averfe to enter into 
the unfocial and malevolent affections, though we 
lay it down for a rule that we ought never to approve 
of their gratification, unlefs fo far as the malicious 
and unjufl intention of the perfon, againft whom 
they are direded renders him their proper objed ; 


ged. 3. Of Merit and Demerit. 163 

yet, upon fome occafions, we relax of this feverity. 
When the negligence of one man has occafioned 
fome unintended damage to another, we generally 
enter fo far into the refentment of the fufFerer, as to 
approve of his inflicting a punifhment upon the of- 
fender much beyond what the offence will have ap- 
peared to deferve, had no fuch unlucky confe- 
quence followed from it. 

There is a degree of negligence, which would ap- 
pear to deferve fome chaftifement though it fhould 
occafion no damage to any body. Thus, if a perfon 
fhould throw a large flone over a wall into a public 
•ftrect without giving warning to thofe who might be 
palling by, and without regarding where it was like- 
ly to fall, he would undoubtedly deferve fome chaf- 
tifement. A very accurate police would punifh fo 
abfurd an action, even though it had done no mif- 
chief. The perfon who has been guilty of it, fhows 
an infolent contempt of the happinefs and fafety of 
others. There is real injuftice in his condudt. He 
wantonly expofes his neighbour to what no man in 
his fenfes would chufe to expofe himfelf, and evident- 
ly wants that fenfe of what is due to his fellow-crea- 
tures v/hich is the bafis of juftice and of fociety^ 
Grofs negligence therefore is, in the law, faid to be 
almofl equal to malicious defign *. When any un- 
lucky confequences happen from fuch carelelfnefs, 
the perfon who has been guilty of it is often punifh- 
ed as if he had really intended thofe confequences ; 
and his conduct, which was only thoughtlefs and 
infolent, and what deferved fome chaftifement, is 
confidered as atrocious, and as liable to the fevereft: 

M 2 ^ punifh- 

* Lata culpa prope dolum e(l. 

i64 6/ Merit ^//^ Demerit. Part II. 

punifhment. THus if, by the imprudent aaion 
above-mentioned, he (hould accidentally kill a man, 
he is, by the laws of many countries, particularly by 
the old law of Scotland, liable to the laft punifhment. 
And though this is no doubt exceflively fevere, it is 
not altogether inconfiftent with our natural fenti- 
ments. Our juft indignation againft the folly and 
inhumanity of his condud is exafperated by our 
fympathy with the unfortunate fiifferer. Nothing 
however would appear more fhocking to our natural 
fenfe of equity, than to bring a man to the fcaffold 
merely for having thrown a done carelefsly into the 
ftreet without hurting any body. The folly and in- 
humanity of his condud, however, would in this 
cafe be the fame ; but ftill our fentiments would be 
very different. The confideration of this difference 
may fatisfy us hov/ much the indignation, even of 
the fpedator, is apt to be animated by the adual con- 
fequences of the adtion. In cafes of this kind there 
will, if I am not miftaken, be found a great degree 
of feverity in the laws of almofl all nations ; as I have 
already obferved that in thofe of an oppofite kind 
there was a very general relaxation of difcipline. 

There is another degree of negligence which does 
not involve in it any fort of injuftice. The perfon 
who is guilty of it treats his neighbour as he treats 
himfelf, means no harm to any body, and is far 
from entertaining any infolent contempt for the fafe- 
ty and happinefs of others. He is not, however, fo 
careful and circumfpedl in his condudt as he ought to 
be, and deferves upon this account fome degree of 
blame and cenfure, but no fort of punifhment. Yet 
if by a negligence * of this kind he fhould occafion 


* Culpa levis. 

Sed. 3. Of Me^it arid Deui^ kit. 165 

fome damage to another perfon, he is by the laws of, 
I believe, all countries, obliged to compenfate it. 
And though this is no doubt a real punilhment, and 
what no mortal would have thought of infliding 
upon him, had it not been for the unlucky accident 
which his condud gave occafion to ; yet this decifion 
of the law is approved of by the natiu-al fentiments 
of all mankind. Nothing, we think, can be more 
jull than that one man fliould not fuffer by the care- 
lelTnefs of another ; and that the damage occafioned 
by blamable negligence ihouid be made up by the 
perfon who was guilty of it. 

There is another fpecies of negligence *, which 
conHfts merely in a want of the moli anxious timi- 
dity and circumfpedlion, v/ith regard to all the pofli- 
ble confequences of our adions. The want of this 
painful attention, v/hen no bad confequences follpw 
from it, is fo far from being regarded as blamable, 
that the contrary quality is rather confidered as fuch. 
That timid circumfpedtioa which is afraid of every 
thing, is never regarded as a virtue, but as a quality 
which more thau any other incapacitates for adtion 
and bufmefs. Yet when, fropi a want of this ex- 
ceflive care, a perfon happens to occafion fome da- 
mage to another, he is often by the law obliged to 
compenfate it. Thus, by the Aquilian law, the man, 
who not being able to manage a horfe that had acci- 
dentally taken fright, fhould happen to ride down 
his neighbour's flave, is obliged to compenfate the 
damage. When an accident of this kind happens, 
we are apt to think that he ought not to have rode 
fuch a horfe, and to regard his attempting it as an un- 

M 3 pardonable 

* Culpa levifliiTw. 

i66 Of Merit and Demerit. Part II. 

pardonable levity ; though without this accident \\t 
fhould not only have made no fuch reflection, but 
ihould have regarded his refufing it as the efFecl of 
timid weaknefs, and of an anxiety about merely 
poiTible events, which it is to no purpofe to be aware 
of. The perfon himfelf, who by an accident even of 
this kind has involuntarily hurt another, feems to 
have fome fenfe of his own ill defert, with regard 
to him. He naturally runs up to the fufferer to ex- 
prefs his concern for what has happened, and to 
make every acknowledgment in his power. If he 
has any fenfibility, he neceiTarily defires to compen- 
fate the damage, and to do every thing he can to 
appeafe that animal refentment, which he is fenfi- 
ble will be apt to arife in the breall: of the fufferer. 
To make no apology, to offer no atonement, is re- 
garded as the highelt brutality. Yet why fhould he 
make an apology more than any other perfon ? 
Why fhould he, fmce he was equally innocent with 
any other by-ftander, be thus fmgled out from 
among all mankind, to make up for the bad fortune 
of another ? This tafk would furely never be impof- 
ed upon him, did not even the impartial fpedator 
feel fome indulgence for what may be regarded as 
the unjuft refentment of that other. 



Sed. 3- 0/ Merit W Demerit. 167 


Of the final caufe of this irregularity of fenti- 



OUCH Is the eifed of the good or bad confe- 
quence of adlions upon the fentiments both of 
the perfon who performs them, and of others ; and 
thus, Fortune, which governs the world, has fome 
influence where we Ihould be leaft wilHng to allow 
her any, and directs in fome meafure the fentiments 
of mankind, with regard to the character and con- 
dud both of themfelves and others. That the world 
judges by the event, and not by the defign, has been 
in all ages the complaint, and is the great difcou- 
ragement of virtue. Every body agrees to the gene- 
ral maxim, that as the event does not depend on the 
agent, it ought to have no influence upon your fenti- 
ments, with regard to the merit or propriety of his 
conduct. But when we come to particulars, we 
find that our fentiments are fcarce in any one in- 
flance exadly conformable to what this equitable 
maxim would dired. The happy or unprofperous 
event of any adion, is not only apt to give us a good 
or bad opinion of the prudence with which it was 
conduded, but almoft always too animates our gra- 
titude or refentment, our fenfe of the merit or de- 
merit of the defign. 

^^ 4 Nature, 

i68 0/ Merit and Demerit. PartH. 

Nature, however, when fhe implanted the feeds 
of this irregularity in the human breaft, feems, as 
upon all other occafions, to have intended the happi- 
nefs and perfedion of the fpecies. If the hurtfulnefs 
of the defig 1, if the malevolence of the afFeftion, 
were alone the caufes which excited our refentment, 
we fhould feel all the furies of that palTion againfl any 
perfon in whofe breaft we fafpecled or believed fuch 
defigns or affections were harboured, though they 
had never broke out into any actions. Sentiments, 
thoughts, intentions, would becomxe the objects of 
punilhment •, and if the indignation of mankind ran 
as high againfl them as againfl actions ; if the bafe- 
nefs of the thought which had given birth to no adti- 
on, feemed in the eyes of the world as much to call 
aloud for vengeance as the bafenefs of the adlion, 
every court ofjudicature would become a real inqui- 
fition. There v/ould be no fafety for the moft in- 
nocent and circumfpedl conduct. Bad wilhes, bad 
views,bad defigns, might ftill be fufpe6ted-, and while 
thefe excited the fame indignation v/ith bad cundudt, 
while bad intentions were as much refented as bad 
a6tions, they would equally expofe the perfon to pu- 
nilhment and refentment. Actions therefore which 
either produce actual evil, or attempt to produce it, 
and thereby put us in the immediate fear of it, are by 
the Author of nature rendered the only proper and 
approved objects of human punilhment and refent- 
ment. Sentiments, defigns, atfedions, though it is 
from thefe that according to cool reafon human 
a<!:tions derive their whole merit or demerit, are 
placed by the great Judge of hearts beyond the li- 
mits of every human jurifdidtion, and are referved 
fur the cognizance of his own unerring tribunal. 


Sed. 3- Of Merit and Demerit. 169 

That neceflary rule ofjaftlce, therefore, that men 
in this life are liable to punifhment for their adions 
only, not for their defigns and intentions, is founded 
upon this falutary and ufeful irregularity in human 
fentiments concerning merit or demerit, which at 
firft fight appears fo abfurd and unaccountable. 
But every part of nature, when attentively furveyed^ 
equally demonftrates the providential care of its 
Author, and we may admire the wifdom and good^ 
nefs of God even in the weaknefs and folly of 

Nor is that irregularity of fentiments altogether 
without its utility, by which the merit of an unfuc- 
cefsful attempt to ferve, and m.uch more tliat of mere 
good inclinations and kind wifhes, appears to be im- 
perfedl. Man was made for action, and to promote 
by the exertion of his faculties fuch changes in 
the external circumftances both of himfelf and 
others, as may feem moft favourable to the happi- 
nefs of all. He muft not be fatisfied with indolent 
benevolence, nor fancy himfelf the friend of man- 
kind, becaufe in his heart he wifhes well to the prof- 
perity of the world. That he may call forth the 
whole vigour of his foul, and ftrain every nerve in 
order to produce thofe ends which it is the purpofe of 
his being to advance. Nature has taught him, that 
neither himfelf nor mankind can be fully fatistied 
with his condudl, nor beflow upon it the full meafure 
of applaufe, unlefs he has actually produced thern. 
He is made to know, that the praife of good inten- 
tions, without the merit of good offices, will be but of 
little avail to excite either the loudeft acclamations 
of the world, or even the highefl degree of felf-ap- 
plaufe. The man who has performed no fmgle 
adion of importance, but whofe whole converfation 


lyo 0/ Merit ^w^ Demerit. Part IL 

and deportment exprefs the jufteft, the noblefl, and 
moil generous fentiments, can be entitled to demand 
no very high revvard,even though his inutility fhould 
be owing to nothing but die want of an opportunity 
to ferve. We can llill refufe it him without blame. 
We can ilill alk him, what have you done ? What 
actual fervice can you produce, to entitle you to fo 
great a recompenfe ? We elleem you, and love you ; 
but we owe you nothing. To reward indeed that 
latent virtue which has been ufelefs only for v/ant of 
an opportunity to ferve, to beftow upon it thofe 
honours and preferments, which, though in fome 
meaiureit may be faid to deferve them, it could not 
with propriety have infifled upon, is the effed of the 
moll divine benevolence. To puniili, on the con- 
trary, for the affedlions of the heart only, where no 
crime has been committed, is the mofl infolent and 
barbarous tyranny. The benevolent affections feem 
to deferve mofl praife, when they do not wait till it 
becomes almoft a crime for them not to exert them- 
felves. The malevolent, on the contrary, can fcarce 
be too tardy, too flow, or deliberate. 

It is even of ufe that the evil which is done without 
defign fhould be regarded as a misfortune to the do«r 
as well as to the fufferer. Man is thereby taught to 
reverence the happinefs of his brethren, to tremble 
left he fhould, even unknowingly, do any thing that 
can hurt them, and to dread that animal refentment 
which he feels is ready to burft out againfl him, if 
he fhould without defign be the unhappy inflrument 
of their calamity. 

Notwithftanding, however, all thefe feeming irre- 
gularities of ientiment, if man Ihould unfortunately 


Sed. 3. Of Merit ^w^ Demerit. 171 

either give occafion to thofe evils which he did not 
intend, or fail in producing that good which he in- 
tended, nature has not left his innocence altogether 
without confolation, nor his virtue altogether with- 
out reward. He then calls to his ailiflance that juft 
and equitable maxim, that thofe events which did 
not depend upon our conduct ought not to diminifh 
the efleem that is due to us. He fummons up his 
whole magnanimity and firmnefs of foul, and flrives 
to regard himfelf, not in the light in which he at 
prefent appears, but in that in v/hich he ought 
to appear, in which he would have appeared 
had his generous defigns been crowned with fuc- 
cefs, and in which he would fliil appear, notwith- 
ft.^nding their mifcarriage, if the fentiments of man- 
kind were either altogether candid and equitable, or 
even perfedlly confident with themfelves. The 
more candid and humane part of mankind entirely go 
along with the efforts which he thus makes to fup- 
port himfelf in his own opinion. They exert their 
w^hole generofity and greatn^fs of mind, to corredl 
in themfelves this irregularity of human nature, and 
endeavour to regard his unfortunate magnanimity in 
the fame light in which, had it been fuccefsful, they 
would, without any fuch generous exertion, have na- 
turally been difpofed to confider it. 



Of the foundation of our judgments con- 
cerning our own fentiments and conduct, 
and of the fenfe of duty. 



Of the confcioufnefs of merited praife or blame, 

AN the two foregoing parts of this difcourfe, I have 
chiefly confidered the origin and foundation of our 
judgments concerning the fentiments and condudt 
of others. I come now to confider the origin of 
thofe concerning our own. 

The defire of the approbation and efteem of thofe 
we live with, which is of fuch importance to our 
happinefs, cannot be fully and entirely contented but 
by rendering ourfelves thejuft and proper objedsof 
thofe fentiments, and by adjufling our own charac- 
ter and condudt according to thofe meafures and 
rules by which efteem and approbation are naturally 
beftowed. It is not fufficient, that from ignorance 


174 ^f /^'^ S E N s E Part III. 

or miftake, elleem and approbation fhould fome way 
or other be beftowed upon us. If we are confcious 
that we do not deferve to be lb favourably thought 
of, and that if the truth was kno .vn, we fhould be 
regarded with very oppofite fentiments, our fatisfac- 
tion is far from being complete. The man who ap- 
plauds us either for adions which we did not per- 
form, or for motives which had no fort of influence 
upon our conduct, applauds not us, but another per- 
fon. We can derive no fort of fatisfadion from his 
praifes. To us they fhould be more mortifying than 
any cenfure, and fhould perpetually call to our minds, 
the moft humbling of all refledions, the refledion 
upon what we ought to be, but what we are not. A 
woman v/ho paints to conceal her uglinefs, could de- 
Vive, one fhould imagine, but little vanity from the 
compliments that are paid to her beauty. Thefe, 
we fhould exped, ought rather to put her in mind of 
the fentiments which her real complexion v/ould ex- 
cite, and mortify her more by the contrail. To be 
pleafed with fach groundlefs applaufe is a proof of 
the moft fuperficial levity and weaknefs. It is v/hat 
is properly called vanity, and is the foundation of the 
moft ridiculous and contem.ptible vices, the vices of 
affedation and comnion lying ; follies which, if ex- 
perience did not teach us how common they are, one 
ihould imagine the leaft fpark of common ^Q,rSQ 
would fave us from. The foolifh liar, who endea- 
vours to excite the admiiration of the company by 
the relation of adventures which never had any ex- 
iftence, the important coxcomb who gives himfelf 
airs of rank and diftinction which he well knows he 
has no juft pretenfions to, are both of them, no 
doubt, pleafed v/ith the applaufe which they fancy 


Chap, I, c/ D u T Y. 175 

they meet with. But their vanity arifes from fo 
grofs an illufion of the imagination, that it is difficult 
to conceive how any rational creature fhould be im- 
pofed upon by it. When they place themfelves in 
the fituation of thofe whom they fancy they have 
deceived, they are flruck with the higheil admiration 
for their own perfons. They look upon themfelves, 
not in that light in which, they know, they ought to 
appear to their companions, but in that in which 
they believe their companions actually look upon 
them. Their fuperficial weaknefs and trivial folly 
hinder them from ever turning their eyes inwards, 
or from feeing themfelves in that defpicable point of 
view in which their own confciences fhould tell them 
that they would appear to every body, if the real 
truth iliould ever come to be known. 

As ignorant and groundlefs praife can give no fo- 
lid joy, no fatisfadtion that will bear any ferious ex- 
amination, fo, on the contrary, it often gives real 
comfort to refled:, that though no praife fhould ac- 
tually be beftowed upon us, our condudt, however, has 
been fuch as to deferve it, and has been in every ref- 
pedl fui table to thofe meafures and rules by which 
praife and approbation are naturally and commonly 
beflowed.Wearepleafed not only with praife, but with 
having done what is praife- worthy . We are pleafed to 
think that we have rendered ourfelves the natural 
objedls of approbation, though no approbation, 
fhould ever adually be beflowcd upon us : and we 
are mortified to refledt that we have jufhly incurred 
the blame of thofe we live with, though that fenti- 
ment fhould never adtually be exerted againfl: us. 


176 Of dr S E N s E ^ Part IIL 

The man who is confcious to himfeif that he has ex- 
actly obferved thofe meafures of conduft which ex- 
perience informs him are geinerally agreeable, re- 
flects with fatiofadtion on the propriety of his own 
behaviour ; when he views it in the light in which 
the impartial fpeclator would view it, he thoroughly 
enters into all the motives which influenced it ; he 
looks back upon every part of it with pleafure 
and approbation, and though mankind fhould never 
be acquainted with what he has done, he regards 
himfeif not fo much according to the light in which 
they adually regard him, as according to that, in 
which they v/ould regard him if they were better in- 
formed. He anticipates the applaufe and admira- 
tion which in this cafe Would be beflowed upon 
him, and he applauds and admires himfeif by fym- 
pathy w ith fentiments w hich do not indeed adually 
take place, but which the ignorance of the public 
alone hinders from taking place, which he knows are 
the natural and ordinary effects of fuch conduct, 
which his imagination flrongly connedts with it, 
and which he has acquired a habit of conceiving as 
fomething that naturally and in propriety ought to 
flow from it. Men have often voluntarily thrown 
away life to acquire after death a renown v/hich they 
could no longer enjoy. Their imagination, in the 
mean time, anticipated that fame v/hich was there- 
after to be beftowed upon them. Thofe applaufes 
which they were never to hear rung in their ears ; 
the thoughts of that admiration, whofe effeds they 
were never to feel, played about their hearts, banilh- 
ed from their breaits the flrongeft of all natural fears, 
and tranfported them to perform actions which feem 
almofl beyond the reach of human nature. But in 


Chap. 1. of D V T Y. 177 

point of reality there is furely no great difference 
between that approbation which is not to be beflow- 
ed till we can no longer enjoy it, and that which in- 
deed is never to be bellowed, but which would be 
bellowed if the world was ever made to underftand 
properly the real circumllances of our behaviour. 
If the one often produces fuch violent effed:&^ we 
cannot wonder that the other fhould always be high- 
ly regarded. 

On the contrary, the man who has broke through 
all thofe meafures of conduct, which can alone ren- 
der him agreeable to mankind, tho* he fhould have 
the moft perfedl alTurance that what he had done 
was for ever to be concealed from every human eye, 
it is all to no purpofe. When he looks back upon it, 
and views it in the light in which the impartial fpec- 
tator would view it, he finds that he can enter into 
none of the motives v/hich influenced it. He is abafhed 
and confounded at the thoughts of it, and necelTa- 
rily feels a very high degree of that fhame which he 
would be expofed to, if his adtions fhould ever come 
to be generally known. His imagination, in this 
cafe too, anticipates the contempt and derifion from 
which nothing faves him but the ignorance of thofe 
he lives with. He Hill feels that he is the natural 
objedl of thefe fentiments, and itili trembles at the 
thought of what he would fufFer if they were ever ac- 
tually exerted againfl him. But if what he had been 
guilty of was not merely one of thofe improprieties 
which are the objects of fimple difapprobation, but 
one of thofe enormous crimes which excite detefla- 
tion and refentment, he could never think of it, as 
long as he had any fenfibility left, without feeling all 

N the 

178 Of the Sense * Part IIL 

the agony of horror and remorfc ; and though he 
could be allured that no man was ever to know it, 
and could even bring himfelf to believe that there 
was no God to revenge it, he would flill feel enough 
of both thefe fentiments to embitter the whole of his 
life : He would iVill regard himfelf as the natural objedt 
of the hatred and indignation of all his fellow-crea- 
tures ; and if his heart was not grown callous by the 
habit of crimes, he could not think without terror and 
aftonifhment even of the manner in which mankind 
would look upon him, of what would be the expref- 
fion of their countenance and of their eyes, if the 
dreadful truth fhould ever come to be known. 
Thefe natural pangs of an affrighted confcience are 
the daemons, the avenging furies which in this life 
haunt the guilty, which allow them neither quiet nor 
repofe, which often drive them to defpair and dif- 
tradtion, from which no afTurance of fecrecy can pro- 
tedt them, from which no principles of irreligion can 
entirely deliver th^m, and from which nothing can 
free them but the vileft and mofl abject of all flates, 
a complete infenfibiUty of honour and infamy, to 
vice and virtue. Men of the moft deteftable charac- 
ters, who, in the execution of the moft dreadful 
crimes, had taken their meafures fo coolly as to avoid 
even the fufpicion of guilt, have fometimes been 
driven, by the horror of their fituation, to difcover of 
their own accord, what no human fagacity could ever 
have inveftigated. By acknowledging their guilt, 
by fubmitting themfelves to the refentment of their 
offended citizens, and by thus fatiating that ven- 
geance of which they were fenfible that they were be- 
come the proper objeds, they hoped by their death 


Chap. I. of T> V r Y. 179 

to reconcile themfelves, at leaft in their own imagi- 
nation, to the natural fentiments of mankind, to be 
able to confider themfelves as lefs worthy of hatred 
and refentment, to atone in fome meafure for their 
crimes, and, if poiTible, to die in peace and with the 
forgivenefs of all their fellow-creatures. Compared 
to what they felt before the difcovery, even the 
thought of this, it feems, was happinefs. 


x8o OftbeSEiJSE Part III. 


In what tnanner our own judgments refer to vjhat ought 
to he the judgments of others : and of the origin of ge- 
neral rules. 


Great part, perhaps the greateil part, of human 
happinefs and mifery arifes from the view of our 
paft condud:, and from the degree of approbation or 
difapprobation v/hich we feel from tlie confideration 
of it. But in whatever manner it may affedl us, our 
fentiments of this kind have always fome fecret re- 
ference either to what are, or to what upon a certain 
condition would be, or to what we imagine ought to 
be the fentiments of others. We examine it as we 
imagine an impartial fpedlator would examine it. If 
upon placing ourfelves in his fituation we thoroughly 
enter into all the pailions and motives which influ- 
enced it, we approve of it by fympathy with the ap- 
probation of this fuppofed equitable judge. If other- 
wife, we enter into his difapprobation and condemn 

Was it polTible that a human creature could grov/ 
up to manhood in fome folitary place without any 
communication with his own fpecies, he could no 
more think of his own charader, of the propriety or 
demerit of his own fentiments and condud, of the 
beauty or deformity of his own mind, than of the 
beauty or deformity of his own face. All thefe are 
objeds which he cannot eafily fee, which naturally 
he does not look at ; and with regard to which he 


Chap. 2. of D V r y; iSi 

is provided with no mirror which can prefent them 
Xo his view. Bring him into fociety, and he is im- 
inediately provided with the mirror which he want- 
ed before. It is placed in the countenance and be- 
haviour of thofe he lives with, which always mark 
when they enter into, and when they difap- 
prove of his fentiments ^ and it is here that he firft 
views the propriety and impropriety of his own 
pafllons, the beauty and deformity of his own 
mind. To a man who from his birth was a flran- 
ger to fociety, the objedts of his paflions, the ex- 
ternal bodies which either pleated or hurt him, would 
occupy his whole attention. The paiTions them- 
felves, the defires or averfions, the joys or forrows, 
which thofe objeds excited, though of all things 
the mofl immediately prefent to him, could fcarce 
ever be the objeds of his thoughts. The idea of 
them could never intereft him fo much as to call 
upon his attentive confideration. The confideration 
of his joy could in him excite no new joy, nor that 
of his forrow any new forrow, though the confider- 
ation of the caufes of thofe paiTions might often ex- 
cite both. Bring him into fociety, and all his own 
paflions will immediately become the caufes of new 
palTions. He will obferve that mankind approve of 
fome of them, and are difgufted by others. He will 
be elevated in the one cafe, and cad down in the 
other; his defires and averfjons, his joys and for- 
rows will now often become the caufes of new de- 
fires and new averfions, new joys and nev/ forrows: 
they will now therefore intereft him deeply, and of- 
ten call upon his mofl attentive confideration. 

Our iirfl ideas of perfonal beauty and deformity, 
are drawn from the fhape and appearance of others, 
not from our oWn, We foon become fenfible, how- 

N ^ ever. 

i82 Of the S E li s K Part IIL 

ever, that others exercife the fame criticifm upon us. 
We are pleafed when they approve of our figure, 
and are difobliged when they feem to be difgufted. 
We become anxious to know how far our appear- 
ance defer ves either their blame or approbation. We 
examine our own perfons limb by limb, and by 
placing ourfelves before a looking-glafs, or by fome 
fuch expedient, endeavour, as much as poflible, to 
view ourfelves at the diflance and with the eyes of 
other people. If after this examination we are fatis- 
fied with our own appearance, v/e can more eafily 
fupport the moft difadvantageous judgments of 
others : if, on the contrary, we are fenfible that we 
are the natural objedts of diilafte, every appearance 
of their difapprobation mortifies us beyond all mea- 
fure. A man who is tolerably handfome, will allow 
you to laugh at any little irregularity in his perfon ; 
'but all fuch jokes are commonly infupportable to one 
who is really deformed. It is evident, however, 
that we are anxious about our own beauty and defor- 
mity only on account of its effed upon others. If 
we had no connexion with fociety, we fhould be al- 
together indifferent about either. 

In the fame manner our hrft moral criticifms are 
exercifed upon the characters and conduct of other 
people ; and we are all very forward to obferve how 
each of thefe affeds us. But we foon learn, that 
others are equally frank with regard to our own. 
We become anxious to know how far we deferve 
their cenfure or applaufe, and whether to them we 
inuft necelfarily appear thofe agreeable or difagree- 
able creatures which they reprefent us. We begin 
iTpon this account to examine our own paflions and 
condudt, and to confider how thefe muil appear to 
them, by confidering how they would appear to 


Chap. 2. ^ D u T Y. 183 

us if in their fituation. We fuppofe oiirfelves the 
fpe6tators of our own behaviour, and endeavour to 
imagine what effect it would, in this light, produce 
upon us. This is the only looking-glafs by which 
we can, in fome meafure, with the eyes of others, 
fcrutinize the propriety of our own conduCl. If in 
this view it plcaies us, we are tolerably fatisfied. We 
can be more indifferent about the applaufe, and, in 
fome meafure, defpife the cenfure of others ; fecure 
chat, however mifunderftood or mifreprefented, we 
are the natural and proper objects of approbation. 
On the contrary, if we are difpleafed with it, we are 
often upon that very account more anxious to gain 
their approbation, and, provided we have not alrea- 
dy, as they fay, fhaken hands with infamy, we are 
altogether diftrafted at the thoughts of their cen- 
fure, which then ftrikes us with double fe verity. 

When I endeavour to examine my own condudl, 
when I endeavour to pafs fentence upon it, and ei- 
ther to approve or condemn it, it is evident that, in 
all fuch cafes, I divide myfelf, as it were, into two 
perfons, and that I, the examiner and judge, repre- 
fent a different charader from that other I, the per- 
fon whofe condudl is examined into and judged of. 
The firfl is the fpedlator, whofe fentiments with re- 
gard to my own conduct 1 endeavour to enter into, 
by placing myfelf in his fituation, and by confider- 
ing how it would appear to me when feen from that 
particular point of view. The fecond is the agent, 
the perfon whom I properly call myfelf, and of 
whofe condud, under the charadler of a fpedator, 
I was endeavouring to form fome opinion. The 
firfl is the judge ; the fecond the pannel. But that 
the judge fhould, in every refped, be the fame 

N 4 with 

i84 Of the Sense Part III. 

with the pannel, is as impollible, as that the caufe 
fhould, in every refped:, be the fame with the efFedt, 

To be amiable and to be meritorious, that is, to 
deferve love and to deferve reward, are the great 
charadters of virtue, and to be odious and punifha- 
ble, of vice. But all thefe charaders have an imme- 
diate reference to the fentiments of others. Virtue 
is not faid to be amiable or to be meritorious, be- 
caufe it is the obje(fl of its own love, or of its own 
gratitude ; but becaafe it excites thofe fentiments in 
other men. The confcioufnefs that it is the objedl 
of fuch favourable regards is the fource of that in- 
ward tranquillity and felf-fatisfadion with which it 
is naturally attended, as the fufpicion of the contra- 
ry gives occafion to the torments of vice. What fo 
great happinefs as to be beloved, and to know that 
we deferve to be beloved } What fo great mifery 
as to be hated, and to know that we deferve to be 
hated .? 

Man is confidered as a moral, becaufe he is re- 
garded as an accpuntable being. But an account- 
able being, as the word exprelTes, is a being that 
mull give an account of its a(5tions to fome other, 
and that confequently muft regulate them accord- 
ing to the good liking of this other. Man is ac- 
countable to God and his fellow-creatures. But 
though he is, no doubt, principally accountable to 
God ; in the order of time, he muft neceffarily con- 
ceive himfelf as accountable to his fellow-creatures, 
before he can form any idea of the Deity, or of the 
rules by which that divine being will judge of his 
condudt. A child furely conceives itfelf as account- 
able to its parents, and iz elevated or c^ft down by 


Chap. 2. of.D V r Y. 185 

the thought of their merited approbation or difap- 
probation, long before it forms any idea of its ac- 
countablenefs to the Deity, or of the rules by which 
that divine being will judge of its condudl. 

The great judge of the w^orld, has, for the wlfeft 
reafons, thought proper to interpofe, between the 
weak eye of human reafon, and the throne of his 
eternal juflice, a degree of obfcurity and darknefs, 
which though it does not entirely cover that great 
tribunal from the view of mankind, yet renders the 
impreflion of it faint and feeble in comparifon of 
what might be expected from the grandeur and im- 
portance of fo mighty an objecft. If thofe infinite 
rewards and punifhments which the Almighty has 
prepared for thofe who obey or tranfgrefs his will, 
V, ere perceived as dillindlly as we forefee the frivo- 
lous and temporary retaliations which we may ex- 
pert from one another, the weaknefs of human na- 
ture, ailonifhed at the immenfity of objeds fo little 
fitted to its comprehenfion, could no longer attend 
to the little affairs of this world ; and it is abfolutely 
impollible that the bufmefs of fociety could have 
been carried on, if, in this refped, there had been a 
fuller revelation of the intentions of Providence 
than that which has already been made. That 
men, however, might never be without a rule to 
diredt their condudt by, nor without a judge whofe 
authority fhould enforce its obfervation, the Author 
of nature has made man the immediate judge of 
mankind, and has, in this refpe(5l, as in many 
others, created him after his own image, and ap- 
pointed him his vicegerent upon earth, to fuperin- 
tend the behaviour of his brethren. They are 
taught by nature to acknowledge that power and 


1 86 0/ //^^ Se N s E Part IIL 

jurifdidion which has thus been conferred upon him, 
and to tremble and exult according as they imagine 
thst they have either merited his cenfure, or deferved 
his applaufe. 

But whatever may be the authority of this inferior 
tribunal which is continually before their eyes, if at 
any time it fhould decide contrary to thofe princi- 
ples and rules, which Nature has eftablifhed for re- 
gulating its judgments, men feel that they may ap- 
peal from this unjuil decifion, and call upon a fupe- 
rior tribunal, the tribunal eilablirhed in their own 
breafls, to redrefs the injuftice of this weak or par- 
tial judgment. 

There are certain principles efrabliflied by Nature 
for governing our judgment concerning the conduct 
of thofe we live with. As long as we decide accord- 
ing to thofe principles, and neither applaud nor con-' 
demn any thing which Nature has not rendered the 
proper objedl of applaufe or condemnation, nor any 
further than fhe has rendered it fuch, as our fentence 
is, in this cafe, if I may fay fo, quite agreeable to 
law, it is liable neither to repeal nor to corredlion of , 
any kind. The perfon concerning whom we form 
thefe judgments, mufl himfelf neceifarily approve of 
them. When he puts himfelf into our fituation, he 
cannot avoid viewing his own conduct in the very 
fame light in v/hich we appear to view it. He is 
fenfible, that to us, and to every impartial fpedtator, 
he muft neceifarily appear the natural and proper ob- 
ject of thofe fentiments which we exprefs with regard 
to him. Thofe fentiments, therefore, mult neceila- 
rily produce their full effedl upon him, and he cannot 
fail to conceive all the triumph of felf-approbatipn ' 


■ Chap. 2. of D V T Y. 187 

from, what appears to him, fuch merited applaufe, 
as well as all the horrors of fliarFie from, what, he 
is fenfible, is fuch deferved condemnation. 

But it is otherwife, if we have either applauded or 
condemned him, contrary to thofe principles and 
rules which Nature has eftablifhed for the direction 
of our judgments concerning every thing of this 
kind. If we have either applauded or condemned 
him for what, when he put himfelf into our fituation, 
does not appear to him to be the objedl either of ap- 
plaufe or condemnation ; as in this cafe he cannot 
enter into our fentiments, provided he has any con- 
llancy or firmnefs, he is but little affedled by them, 
and can neither be much elevated by the favourable, 
nor greatly mortified by the unfavourable decifion. 
The applaufe of the whole world will avail but little, 
if our own confcience condemn us ; and the difap- 
probation of all mankind is not capable of oppreifmg 
us, v/hen we are abiblved by the tribunal within our 
own breafl, and when our own mind tells us that 
mankind are in the wrong. 

But though this tribunal within the bread be thus 
the fupreme arbiter of all our adions, though it can 
reverfe the decifions of all mankind with regard to 
our character and condudt, and mortify us amidft 
the applaufe, or fupport us under the cenfure of the 
world; yet, if we inquire into the origin of its in- 
flitution, its jurifdidion we fhall find is in a great 
meafure derived from the authority of that very tribu- 
nal, whofe decifions it fo often andfojuflly reverfes. 

When we firfl come into the world, from the na 
tural defire to pleafe, we accuftom ourfelves to con- 


1 88 Of the Sense Part III. 

fider what behaviour is likely to be agreeable to every 
perfon we convene wi th, to our parents, to our maf- 
ters, to our companions. We addrefs ourfelves to 
individuals, and for fome time fondly purfue the im- 
poflible and abfurd projedt of gaining the good-will 
and approbation of every body. We are foon 
taught by experience, however, that this univerfal 
approbation is altogether unattainable. As foon as 
we come to have more important interefts to manage, 
v/e find, that by pleafmg one man, we almoft cer- 
tainly difobl'ge another, and that by humouring an. 
individual, we may often irritate a whole people. 
The faired and moft equitable condudl mud 
frequently obflrudt the interefts, or thwart the 
inclinations of particular perfons, who will feldom 
have candour enough to enter into the propriety of our 
motives, or to fee that this condud, how difagreeable 
foever to them, is perfectly fuitable to our fituation. 
In order to defend ourfelves fi'om fuch partial judg- 
ments, we foon learn to fet up in our own minds a, 
judge between ourfelves and thofe we live with. Wc 
conceive ourfelves as ading in the prefence of a per- 
fon quite candid and equitable, of one wlio has no 
particular relation either to ourfelves, or to thofe 
whofe interefts are affeded by our conduct, w^ho is 
neither father, nor brother, nor friend either to them 
or to us, but is merely a man in general, an impar- 
tial fpeclator who confiders our conduct with the 
fame indifterence with which we regard that of other 
people. If, when we place ourfelves in the fituation 
of fuch a perfon, our own anions appear to us under 
an agreeable afpedt, if we feel that fuch a fpedator 
cannot avoid entering into all the motives which 


Chap. 2. of D V r y. 189 

influenced us, whatever may be the judgments of the 
world, we mufl ilill be pleafed with our ownbeha-* 
viour, and regard ourfelves, in fpite of the cenfure 
of our companions, as the jufl and proper objedts of 

On the contrary, if the man v/ithin condemns us, 
the loudeil acclamations of mankind appear but as 
the noife of ignorance and folly, and whenever we 
alTume the charav5ter of this impartial judge, we can- 
not avoid viewing our own actions with this diftafte 
and dilTatisfadlion. The weak, the vain, and the fri- 
volous, indeed, may be mortified by themofl ground- 
lefs cenfure, or elated by the moft abfurd applaufe. 
Such perfons are not accuilomed to confult the judge 
within concerning the opinion which they ought to 
form of their own conduct. This inmate of the 
breafl, this abftradt man, the reprefentative of man- 
kind, and fubil:itute of the Deity, whom Nature has 
conftituted the fupreme judge of all their actions, is 
feldom appealed to by them. They are contented 
with the decifion of the inferior tribunal. The ap- 
probation of theircompanions, of the particular per- 
ibns whom they have lived and converfed with, has 
generally been the ultimate objedt of all their wifhes. 
If they obtain this, their joy is complete ; and if they 
fail, they are entirely difappointed. They never 
think of appealing to the fuperior court. They have 
feldom inquired after its decifions, and are altoge- 
gether unacquainted with the rules and forms of its 
procedure. When the world injures them, there- 
fore, they are incapable of doing themfelves juflice, 
-and are, in confequence, neceflarily the flaves of the 


igo Of the Sense Part III. 

world. But it is otherwife with the man who has, 
upon all occafions, been accuftomed to have recourfe 
to the judge within, and to confider, not what the 
world approves or difapproves of, but what appears 
to this impartial fpedator, the natural and proper 
objeLl of approbation or difapprobation. The judg- 
ment of this fupreme arbiter of his condudt, is the 
applaufe, which he has been accuftomed principally 
to court, is the cenfure which he has been accuftom- 
ed principally to fear. Compared with this final de- 
cifion, the fentiments of all mankind, though not 
altogether indifferent, appear to be but of fmall mo- 
ment ; and he is incapable of being either much 
elevated by their favourable, or greatly deprefled by 
their moll difadvantageous judgment. 

It is only by confulting this judge within, that we 
can fee whatever relates to ourfelves in its proper 
fliape and dimenfions, or that we can make any pro- 
per comparifon between our own interefls and thofe 
of other men. 

As to the eye of the body, objects appear great or 
fmall, not fo much according to their real dimenfions, 
as according to the nearnefs or diftance of their fitu- 
ation ; fo do they like wife to what may be called the 
natural eye of the mind : and we remedy the defedts 
of boththefe organs pretty much in the fame manner. 
In my prefent fituation an immenfe landfcape of 
lawns, and woods, and diftant mountains, feems to 
do no more than cover the little window which I 
write by, and to be out of all proportion lefs than the 
chamber in which I am fitting. lean form a juft 
comparifon between thofe great objedts and the 
little objeds around me, in no other way, than by 


Chap. 2. of D V *v Y , 1^1 

tranfportingmyrelf, at ieafl in fancy, to a diiierent 
ftation, from whence I can furvey both at nearly 
equal diftances, and thereby fornl fome judgment 
of their real proportions. Habit and experience have 
taught me to do this (o eafily and [o readily, that I 
am fcarce fenfible that I do it • and a man muft be, 
in fome meafure, acquainted with the philofophy of 
vifion, before he can be thoroughly convinced, how 
little thofe diflant objeds w^ould appear to the eye, 
if the imagination, from a knowledge of their real 
magnitudes, did not fwell and dilate them. 

In the fame manner, to the felfifh and original 
paflions of human nature, the lofs or gain of a very 
fmail intereft of our own, appears to be of vallly 
more importance, excites a much more paflionate 
joy or forrow, a much more ardent defire or averfion, 
than the greateft concern of another with whom we 
have no particular connexion. His interefbs, as lon&- 
as they are furveyed from this ftation, can never be 
put into the balance with our own, can never re- 
ftrain us from doing whatever may tend to promote 
our own, how ruinous foever to him. Before v/e 
can make any proper comparifon of thofe oppofite 
interefts, v/e mufl change our pofition. We mufl 
viev/ them, neither from our ov/n place, nor yet 
from his, neither with our own eyes nor yet with his, 
but from the place, and with the eyes of a third per- 
fon, who has no particular connexion with either, and 
who judges with impartiality between us. Here too, 
habit and experience have taught us to do this fo 
eafily and fo readily, that we are fcarce fenfible that 
we do it ; and it requires, in this cafe too, fome 
degree of reflection, and even of philofophy to con- 
vince us, how iittl? intereft we fhould take in the 


igz Of the Sense Part III. 

greatefl concerns of our neighbour, how little we 
ihould be alFedled by whatever relates to him, if the 
fenfe of propriety andjuftice did not corredt the 
otherwife natural inequality of our fentiments. 

Let us fuppofe that the great empire of China, 
%vith all its myriads of inhabitants, was fuddenly 
fwallowed up by an earthquake, and let us confider 
how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no fort 
of connexion with that part of the world, would be 
affecfted upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful 
calamity. He would, I imagine, nrft of all, exprefs 
very flrongly his forrovv for the misfortune of that 
unhappy people, he would make many melancholy 
reflexions upon the precarioufnefs of human life, and 
the vanity of all the labours of man, which could 
thus be annihilated in a moment. He v/ould too, 
perhaps, if he was a man of fpeculation, enter into 
many reafonings concerning the effedls which this 
difafler might produce upon the commerce of Europe, 
and the trade and bufinefs of the world in general. 
And when all this fine philofophy w^as over, when all 
thefe humane fentiments had been once fairly ex- 
prefled, he would purfue his bufmefs or his pleafure, 
take his repofe or his divcrfion, with the fame eafe 
and tranquility, as if no fuch accident had happened. 
The moft frivolous difalter which could befal himfelf 
would occafion a more real dlflurbance. If he was 
to lofe his little finger to-morrow, he v/ould not fleep 
to-night ; but provided he never faw them, he will 
fnore with the moft profound fecurity over the ruin 
of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the de- 
llruclion of that imm.enfe multitude feems plainly 
an object lefs interefting to him, than this paultiy 
misfortune of his ovv^n.. To prevent therefore, this 


Chap. 2. . of D V T Y, 193 

paultry misfortune to himfelf would aman of huma- 
nity be v/iliing to faciifice the hves of a hundred 
millions of his brethren, provided he had never {tea 
them ? Human nature ftartles with horror at the 
thought, and the v^orld, in its greateft depravity and 
corruption, never produced fuch a villain as could 
be capable of entertaining it. But what makes this 
difference ? When our pailive feelings are almioft al- 
ways fo fordid and fo felfifh, how comes it that our 
ndtive principles fhould often be fo generous and fo 
noble ? When v/e are always fo much more deeply 
affeded by whatever concerns ourfeives, than by 
whatever concerns other men -, what is it which 
prompts the generous, upon all occafions, and the 
mean upon many, to facrifice their own intereils to 
the greater interefbs of others ? It is not the foft power 
of humanity, it is not that feeble fpark of benevo- 
lence which Nature has lighted up in the human 
heart, that is thus capable of counterading the 
flrongeft impulfes of felf-iove. It is a ilrono-er 
power, a more forcible motive, which exerts itfelf 
upon fuch occafions. It is reaion, principle, confci- 
ence, the inhabitant of the breafl, the man within 
the great judge and arbiter of our conduct. It is he 
who, whenever we are about to adl fo as to affed the 
happinefs of others, calls to us with a voice capable 
of aftonifhing the moft prefumptuous of our paflions, 
that we are but one of the multitude, in no refpedt 
better than any other in it ; and that when we prefer 
ourfeives {o HiamefuUy and fo blindly to others, we 
become the proper objedls of refentm.ent, abhor- 
rence, and execration. It is from him only that we 
learn the real littlenefs of ourfeives, and of whatever 
relates to ourfeives, and the natural mifreprefentati- 
ons of felf-love can be correded only by the eye of 

O this 

194 Q/^ ^^-^^ Sense Fart Hi. 

this impartial fpeclator. It is he who fhows us 
the propriety of generofity and the deformity of in- 
juftice ; the propriety of refigning the greatefl m- 
tereils of our own, for the yet greater interefts 
of others, and the deformity of doing the 
fmallell injury to another, in order to obtain the 
greatefl benefit to ourfelves. It is not the love of 
our neighbour, it is not the love of mankind, which 
upon many occafions prompts us to the pradtice of 
thofe divine virtues. It is a flronger love, a m.ore 
powerful aifedion which generally takes place upon 
fuch occafions, the love of what is honourable and 
noble, of the grandeur, and dignit) , and faperioiity 
of our own charadters. 

When the happinefs or mifery of others depends 
in any refpecl upon our conduct, we dare not, as 
felf-love would fuggeft to us, prefer any little interefl 
of our own, to the yet greater interefl of our neigh- 
bour. We feel that we fhould become the proper ob- 
jeds of the refentment and indignation of our bre- 
thren, and the fenfe of the impropriety of this affec- 
tion isfupported and enlivened by the yet flronger 
fenfe of the demerit of the adlion, which it v/ould in 
this cafe give occafion to. But when the happinefs 
or mifery of others in no refped depends upon our 
condud, when our own interefls are altogether fepa- 
rated and detached from theirs, fo that there is nei- 
ther connexion nor competition between them, as 
the fenfe of demerit does not in this cafe interpofe, 
the mere fenfe of impropriety is feldom able to re- 
flrain us from abandoning ourfelves to our natural 
anxiety about our own affairs, and to our natural in- 
difference about thofe of other men. The moll vul- 
gar education teaches us to ad, upon all important 
occafions, with iome fort of impartiality between 


Chap, 2. 0/ D U T Y. ig^ 

ourfelves and others, and even the ordinary com- 
merce of the v/orld is capable of adjuring our active 
principles to fome degree of propriety. But it is 
the moft artificial and refined education only, which 
pretends to correct the inequalities of our paflive 
feelings, and we mull for this purpofe have recourfe 
to the feverefl:, as v^ell as to the profoundefl philofo- 

Two different fets of philofophershave attempted 
to teach us this hardefh of all the leffons of morality. 
One fet have laboured to increafe our fenfibility to 
the interefls of others ; another to diminifh that to 
our own. The firfl: would have us feel for others as 
we naturally feel for ourfelves. The fecond would 
have us feel for ourfelves, as we naturally feel for 

The firft are thofe melancholy moralifts, who are 
perpetually reproaching us with our happinefs, while 
fo many of our brethren are in mifery, * who regard 
as impious the natural joy of profperity, v/hich does 
not think of the many wretches that are at every in- 
llant labouring under all forts of calamities, in the 
languor of poverty, in the agony of difeafe, in the 
horrors of death, under the infults and oppreflion of 
their enemies. Commiferation for thofe miferies 
which we never faw, which we never heard of, but 
which we may be affured are at all times infelling 
fuch numbers of our fellow-creatures, ought, they 
think, to damp the pleafures of the fortunate, and to 
render a certain melancholy dejedlion habitual to all 
men. But firft of all, this extreme fympathy with 

O 2 misfortunes, 

* See Thomfon's Seafons, Winter : 
" Ah ! little think the gay licentious proud," &c. 
See alfo Pa leal. 

196 Of the Sense Fart Ilf. 

misfortunes, which we know nothing about, feems 
altogether abfiird and iinreafonable. Take the whole 
earth at an average, for one man who fuffers pain or 
mifery, you will find twenty in profperity and joy, 
or at leall in tolerable circum fiances. No reafon, 
furely, can be ailigned why we fhould rather weep 
with the one than rejoice with the twenty. This 
artificial commiferation, befides, is not only abfurd, 
but feems altogether unattainable ; and thofe who 
afFedt this character have comm.only nothing but a 
certain hypocritical fadnefs, v/hich, without reaching 
the heart, ferves only to render the countenance and 
converfation impertinently difmal and difagreeablc. 
And lafl of all, this difpofition of mind, though it 
could be attained, would be perfedly ufelefs, and 
could ferve no other purpofe than to render miferabk 
the perfon who was poffeffed of it. Whatever in- 
tereft we take in the fortune of thofe with whom 
we have no acquaintance or connexion, and who 
are placed altogether out of the fphere of our adivity, 
can produce only anxiety to ourfelves, without any 
manner of advantage to them. To what purpofe 
fhould we trouble ourfelves about the world in the 
moon ^ All men, even thofe at the greateft diftance, 
are no doubt entitled to our good wifhes, and our 
good wifhes w^e naturally give them. But if, not- 
withflanding, they fhould be unfortunate, to give 
ourfelves any anxiety upon that account, feems to 
be no part of our duty. That we fhould be but 
httle interefled, therefore, in the fortune of thofe 
whom we can neither ferve nor hurt, and who are in 
every refped fo very remote from us, feems wifely 
ordered by nature ; and if it were poiTible to 
alter in this refped the original conftitution of our 
frame, we could yet gain nothing by the change. 


Chap, z, 0/" D u T Y. . 197 

Amono- the moralifts who endeavour to correct 
the natural inequality of our paflive feelings by di- 
minifhing our lenfibility to wliat peculiarly concerns 
ourfelves, we may count all the ancient fedts of phi- 
lofophers, but particularly the ancient floics. Man, 
according to the ftoics, ought to regard himfelf, not 
as fomething feparated and detached, but as a citi- 
zen of the world, a member of the vaft common- 
wealth of nature. To the intereft of this great com- 
munity, he ought at all times to be willing that his 
own little intereii fiiould be facrificed. Whatever 
concerns himfelf, ought to affedt him no more than 
whatever concerns any other equally important part 
of this immenfe fyftem. We fhould view ourfelves, 
not in the light in which our own felfifh pailions are 
apt to place us, but in the light in which any other 
citizen of the world would view us. What befalls 
ourfelves we fhould regard as v/hat befalls our neigh- 
bour, or, what comes to the fame thing, as our 
neighbour regards what befalls us. " When our 
'' neighbour," fays Epidletus, " lofes his wife or his 
*' fon, there is nobody who is not fenfible that this is a 
" human calamity, a natural event altogether, accord- 
*' ing to the ordinary courfe of things : but when 
" the fame thing happens to ourfelves, then we cry 
" out, as if we had fuffered the moft di^adful misfor- 
'' tune. We ought, however, to remember how 
" w^e were affedted when this accident happened to 
*' another, and fuch as we were in his cafe, fuch 
" ought we to be in our ovvn." How diffi- 
cult foever it may be to attain this fupreme degree 
of magnanimity and firmnefs, it is by no means ei- 
ther abfurd or ufelefs to attempt it. Though few 
men have the floical idea of what this perfedt pro- 
priety requires, yet all men endeavour in fome mea- 

O 3 fure 

198 Of the Sense Part III, 

fure to command themfelves, and to bring down 
their {eltifh pailions to fomething which their neigh- 
bour can 9:0 alono; with. But this can never be done 
fo etTeftually as by viewing whatever befalls them- 
felves in the light in which their neighbours are apt 
to view it. The floical philoiophy, in this refpect, 
does little more than unfold our natural ideas of 
perfection. Tliere is nothing abfurd or Improper, 
therefore, in aiming at this perfect felf-command. 
Neitlier would the attainment of it be uielefs, but, 
on the contrary, the mofi: advantageous of all things, 
as eihiblifning ourhnppinels upon the mofl: folid and 
fecure foundation, a iirm confidence in that wifdom 
and juftice which governs the world, and an entire 
refignation of ourfelves, and of whatever relates to 
ourfclves to the all-wiie difpofal of this ruling prin- 
ciple in nature. 

It fcarce ever happens, however, that we are ca- 
pable of adjufling our pallive feelings to this perfect 
propriety. We indulge ourfelves, and even the 
world indulges us, in fome degree of irregularity in 
this refpec5t. Though we lliould be too much af- 
fected by what concerns ourfelves, and too little by 
what concerns other men, ) et, if we always acl w^ith 
impartiality between ourfelves and others, if we ne- 
ver adlually facrifice any great intereft of others, to 
any little intereft of our own, we are eafily pardon- 
ed: and it were well, if, upon all occailons, thofe 
who defire to do their duty were capable of main- 
taining even this degree of impartiality between 
themfelves and others. But this is very far from 
being the cafe. Even in good men, the judge with- 
in is often in danger of being corrupted by the vio- 
lence and injuftice of their feliifh paflions, and is 


Chap, 2. of D V T Y. 199 

often induced to make a report very different from 
what the real circumilances of the cafe are capable 
of authorizing. 

There are two different occafions, upon v/hich we 
examine our own conduc!^, and endeavour to view 
it in the light in which the impartial fpedator would 
view it. Firfl, when we are about to adl ; and, fe- 
condly, after we have ad:ed. Our views are very 
partial in both cafes, but they are moft fo, when it 
is of mofl importance that they fhould be otherwife. 

When we are ^bout to ac^, the eagernefs of paf- 
fion will feldom allow us to confider what we are 
doing with the candour of an indifferent perfon. 
The violent emotions which at that time agitate us, 
difcolour our views of things, even when we are en- 
deavouring to place ourfelves in the f^tuation of ano- 
ther, and to regard the objeds that interefl: us, in 
the light in which they will naturally appear to him. 
The fury of our own pailions conllantly calls us 
back to our own place, where every thing appears 
magnified and mifreprefented by felf-love. Of the 
manner in which thofe objeds would appear to an- 
other, of the view which he would take of them, we 
can obtain, if I may fay fo, but inflantaneous 
glimpfes, which vanilh in a moment, and which 
even while they lail are not altogether juft. We 
cannot even for that moment divefl ourfelves entire- 
ly of the heat and keennefs with which our peculiar 
fituation infpires us, nor confider what we are about 
to do with the complete impartiality of an equitable 
judge. The paflions, upon this account, as father 
Malebranche fays, all jullify themfelves, and feem 

O 4 reafonable, 

200 Of the Sense Part III. 

reafonable, and proportioned to their objects, as 
long as we continue to feel them. 

When the action is over, indeed, and the pailions 
which prompted it have fubiided, we can enter more 
coolly into feritiments of the indifferent fpedator. 
What before interelled us, is now become almoft as 
indifferent to us as it always was to him, and we can 
now examine our own condud with his candour and 
impartiality. But our Judgments now are of httle 
importance, compared to what they were before; 
and when they are moil feverely impartial, can com- 
monly produce nothing but vain regret, and un- 
availing repentance, without fecuring us^ from the 
like errors for the future. It is feldom, however, 
that they are quite candid even in this cafe. The 
opinion v/hich we entertain of our own charadter, 
depends entirely on our judgment concerning our 
paft condud. It is fo difagreeable to think ill of 
ourfeives, that we often purpofely turn away our 
view from thofe circumftances which might render 
that judgment unfavourable. He is a bold furgeon, 
they fay, whofe hand does not tremible when he 
performs an operation upon his own perfon ; and he 
is often equally bold who does not hefitate to pull 
off the myflerioiis veil of felf-delufion, which covers 
from his view the deformities of his own conduvfl:. 
Rather than lee our own behaviour under fo difagree- 
able an afpedl, we too often, fooliilily and weakly, 
endeavour to exafperate anew thofe unjufh pailions 
which had formerly mulled us ; we endeavour by ar- 
tifice to av/aken our old hatreds, and irritate afrefli 
our almoll forgotten refentments : we even exert 
ourfeives for this mifcrable purpofe, and thus per- 
fevere in injuflice, merely becaufe we once v/ere tin- 


Chap. 2. o/* D u T Y. 20I 

juft, and becaufe we are afhamed and afraid to fee 
that we were fo. 

So partial are the views of mankind with regard 
to the propriety of their own conduc^l;, both at the 
time of adion and after it ; and fo difficult is it for 
them to view it in the hght in which any indifferent 
fpedlator would confider it. But if it was by a pe- 
culiar faculty, fuch as the moral fenfe is fuppofed to 
be, that they judged of their own condud, if they 
were endued with a particular power of perception, 
which diftinguilhed the beauty or deformity of paf- 
fions and affedions ; as their own paflions would be 
more immediately expofed to the view of this fa- 
culty, it would judge with more accuracy concern- 
ing them, than concerning thofe of other men, of 
which it had only a more diflant profpecfl. 

This felf-deceit, this fatal weaknefs of mankind, 
is the fource of half the dilorders of human life. If 
we faw ourfelves in the light in which others fee us, 
or in which they would fee us if they knew all, a re- 
formation would generally be unavoidable. We 
cotild not otherwife endure the fight. 

Nature, however, has not left this weaknefs, which 
is of fo much importance, altogether without a re- 
medy ; nor has fhe abandoned us entirely to the de- 
lufions of felf-love. Our continual obfervations up- 
on the condud of others, infenfibly lead us to form 
to ourfelves certain general rules concerning what is 
fit and proper either to be done or to be avoided. 
Some of their adions fhock all our natural fenti- 
ments. We hear every body about us exprefs the 
like deteflation againil them. This flill further con- 
firms, and even exafperates our natural (enfc of 


202 ^ Of /Z;/f S E N s E Part Ilf. 

iheir deformity. It fatisfies us that we view them 
in the proper Hght, when we fee other people view 
them in the fame light. We refolve never to be 
guilty of the like, nor ever, upon any account, to 
render ourfelves in this manner the objedts of uni- 
verfal difapprobation We thus naturally lay down 
to ourfelves a general rule, that all fuch actions are 
to be avoided, as tending to render us odious, con- 
temptible, or punifhable, the ohjeds of all thofe 
fentiments for which we have the grcatefl dread and 
averfion. Other adions, on the contrary, call forth 
our approbation, and we hear every body around us 
cxprefs the fame favourable opinion concerning 
them. Every body is eager to honour and reward 
them. They excite all thofe fentiments for which 
we have by nature the fhrongefl defire ; the love, the 
gratitude, the admiration of mankind. We become 
ambitious of performing the like ; and thus naturally 
lay down to ourfelves a rule of another kind, that 
every opportunity of acting in this manner is care^ 
fully to be fought after. 

It is thus that the general rules of morality are 
formed. They are ultimately founded upon expe- 
rience of what, in particular inftances, our moral fa- 
culties, our natural fenfe of merit and propriety, 
approve, or difapprove of. We do not originally 
approve or condemn particular adlions ^ becaufe, up- 
on examination, they appear to be agreeable or in- 
confiilent with a certain general rule. The general 
rule, on the contrary, is formed by finding from ex- 
perience, that all anions of a certain kind, or cir- 
cumflanced in a certain manner, are approved or 
difapproved of. To the man who firft faw an in- 
human murder, committed from avarice, envy, or 


Chap. 2. of D V T Y. 203 

imjufl refentrnent, and upon one too that loved and 
trulled the murderer, who beheld the laft agonies of 
the dying perfon, who heard him, with his expiring 
breath, complain more of the perfidy and ingrati- 
tude of his falfe friend, than of the violence which 
had been done to him, there could be no occafion, 
in order to conceive how horrible fuch anadtionwas, 
that he Hiould refledt, that one of the mofl facred 
rules of conduct was what prohibited the taking 
away the life of an innocent perfon, that this was a 
plain violation of that rule, and confequently a very 
blamable a6l:ion. His deteilation of this crime, it 
is evident, would arife inllantaneouily and antece- 
dent to his having formed to himfelf any fuch ge- 
neral rule. The general rule, on the contrary, 
which he might afterwards form, would be founded 
upon the deteflation which he felt neceifarily arife in 
his own breaft, at the thought of this, and every 
other particular adion of the fame kind. 

When we read in hiftory or romance, the account 
of actions either of generofity or of bafenefs, the ad- 
miration which we conceive for the one, and the 
contempt which we feel for the other, neither 
of them arife from refleding that there are certain 
general rules which declare all actions of the one 
kind admirable, and all adions of the other con- 
temptible. Thofe general rules, on the contrary, 
are all formed from the experience we have had of 
the effeds which adtions of all different kinds natu- 
rally produce upon us. 

An amiable adion, a refpedable adion, an hor- 
rid adion, are all of them adions which naturally 
/excite the love, the refped, or the horror of the 


204 Of the Sense Part III. 

fpectator, for the perfon who performs them. The 
general rules which determine what adions are, 
and what are not, the objedts of each of thofe fenti- 
ments, can be formed no other way than by obferv- 
ing v/hat adions adually and in fact excite them. 

When thefe general rules, indeed, have been 
formed, v/hen they are univerfally acknowledged 
and eflablifhed, by the concurring fentiments of 
mankind, we frequently appeal to them as to the 
ftandards of judgment, in debating concerning the 
degree of praife or blame that is due to certain ac- 
tions of a complicated and dubious nature. They 
are upon thefe occafions commonly cited as the ulti- 
mate foundations of what is juil and unjufl: in hu- 
man condudt ; and this circumftance feems to have 
mifled feveral very eminent authors, to draw up 
their fyfle?ns in fuch a manner, as if they had fup- 
pofed that the original judgments of mankind with 
regard to right and wrong, were formed like the 
decifions of a court of judicatory, by confidering 
firfl the general rule, and then, fecondly, whether 
the particular adion under confideration fell properly 
within its comprehenfion. 

Thofe general rules of condud, when they have 
been fixed in our mind by habitual reflexion, are of 
great ufe in corredling mifreprefentations of felf-love 
concerning what is fit and proper to be done in our 
particular fituation. The man of furious refentment, 
if he was to lifben to the dilates of that paffion, 
would perhaps regard the death of his enemy, as but 
a fmall compenfation for the wrong, he imagines, 
he has received ^ which, however, may be no more 
than a very flight provocation. But his obfervations 


Cliap. %. . <?/ D u T Y. 205 

upon die condad of others, have taught him how 
horrible all {licli languinary revenges appear. Un- 
lefs his education has been very fingular, he has laid ^ 
it down to himfelf as an inviolable rule, to abftain 
from them upon all occafions. This rule preferves 
its authority with him, and renders him incapable of 
being guilty of fuch a violence. Yet the fury of his 
own temper may be fuch, that had this been the 
firil time in which he confidered fuch an adion, he 
would undoubtedly have determined it to be quite 
juft and proper, and what every impartial fpedtator 
would approve of. But that reverence for the rule 
which paft experience has im pre fled upon him, checks 
the impetuofity of his paflion, and helps him to cor- 
rect the too partial views which felf-love mio-ht 
other wife fuggefh, of what was proper to be done 
in his fituation. If he fhould allow himfelf to be 
{^:i far tranfported by paflion as to violate this rule 
yet even in this cafe, he cannot throv/ oflf altoo-ether 
the awe and refped with which he has been accuf- 
tomed to regard it. At the very time of adtino-, at 
the moment in v/hich paflion mounts the higheft, he 
liefitates and trembles at the thought of what he is 
about to do : he is fecretly confcious to himfelf that 
he is breaking through thofe meafures of condud, 
v/hich, in all his cool hours, he had refolved never 
to infringe, which he had never i^tw infringed by 
others without the highelt difapprobation, and of 
which the infringement, his own mind forebodes, 
muft foon render him the object of the fam^e dif- 
agreeable fentiments. Before he can take the lafl 
fatal refolution, he is tormented with all tlie agonies 
of doubt and uncertainty; he is terrified at the 
thought of violating fo facred a rule, and at the fame 
time is urged and goaded on by the fury of his de- 


2o6 Of /Zv S E N S E Pait III. 

fires to violate it. He changes his purpofe every 
moment ; fometimes he refolves to adhere to his 
principle, and not indulge a paflion which may cor- 
rupt the remaining part of his life with the horrors of 
fhame and repentance ; and a momentary calm 
takes polTellion of his breafl, from the profpedt of 
tliat fecurity and tranquillity which he will enjoy 
when he thus determines not to expofe himfelf to 
the hazard of a contrary conducl. But immediately 
the paiTion roufes anev/, and with freili fury drives 
him on to commit what he had the inflant before re- 
folved to abflain from. Wearied and diftradted 
with thofe continual irrefolutions, he at length, 
from a fort of defpair, makes the lail fatal and ir- 
recoverable ilep ; but with that terror and amaze- 
ment with which one flying from an enemxy, throv/s 
himfelf over a precipice, wliere he is fure of meet- 
ing with more certain deftrudion than from any 
thing that purfues him from behind. Such are his 
fentiments even at the time of adting ; though he is 
then, no doubt, lefs fenfible of the impropriety of 
his own condud than afterwards, when his pallion 
being gratified and palled, he begins to view what 
he has done in the light in which others are apt to 
view it ; and adually feels, what he had only fore- 
feen very imperfectly before, the flings of remorfe 
and repentance begin to agitate and torment him. 


Chap. 3, of D \j T Y. 20' 


Of the influence and authority of the gejieral rules of mo- 
rality^ and that they are jiiftly regarded as the laws of 
the Deity. 

A HE regard to thofe general rules of conduc\, 
is what is properly called a fenfe of duty, a prin- 
ciple of the greatefh confequence in human life, and 
the only principle by which the bulk of mankind are 
capable of directing their adions. Many men be- 
have very decently, and through the whole of their 
lives avoid any confiderable degree of blame, who 
yet, perhaps, never felt the fentiment upon the 
propriety of which we found our approbation of 
their condud, but aded merely from a regard to 
what they faw were the eftablifhed rules of beha- 
viour. The man who has received great benefits 
from another perfon, may, by the naturtd coldnefs of 
his temper, feel but a very fmali degree of the fenti- 
ment of gratitude. If he has been virtuoufly educated, 
however,- he will often have been made to obferve 
how odious thofe adions appear which denote a 
want of this fentiment, and how amiable the con- 
trary. Tho' his heart therefore is not warmed with 
any grateful affedion, he will drive to act as if it 
was, and will endeavour to pay all thofe regards 
and attentions to his patron which the livelieft gra- 

2o8 (y /i;^ S E N s E Part III. 

titude could fuggelt. He will vifit him regularh/ ; 
he will behave to him refpedlfully ; he will never 
talk of him but with exprellions of the highefl ef- 
teem, and of the many obligations which he owes 
to him. And what is m.ore, he will carefully em- 
brace every opportunity of making a proper return 
for pafl fervices. He may do all this too without 
any hypocriiy or blamable diflimulation, without 
any felfifh intention of obtaining new favours, and 
without any defign of impofmg either upon his be- 
nefadtor or the public. The motive of his anions 
may be no other than a reverence for the eftablilhed 
rule of duty, a ferious and earned defire of acting, 
in every refped:, according to the law of gratitude. 
A wife, in the fame manner, may fjmetimes not 
feel that tender regard for her hufband which is fuit- 
able to the relation that fubfifts betv/een them. If 
Ihe has been virtuoufly educated, however, the will 
endeavour to adt as if flie felt it, to be careful, of- 
ficious, faithful, aid fmcere, and to be deficient in 
none of thofe attentions which the fentiment of con- 
jugal affedion could have prompted her to perform. 
Such a friend, and fuch a wife, are neither of them, 
undoubtedly, the very befi: of their kinds ^ and 
though both of them may have the moft ferious and 
earneft defire to fulfil every part of their duty, yet 
they will fail in many nice and delicate regards, 
they will mifs many opportunities of obliging, v. hich 
they could never have overlooked if they had pof- 
feffed tlie fentiment that is proper to their fituation. 
Though not the very firft of their kinds, however, 
they are perhaps the fecond ; and if the regard to 
the general rules of condud has been very ilrongly 
impfeffed upon them, neither of them v/ill fail in 
any elTential part of their duty. None but thofe of 


Chap. ?. of D V T Y. 209 

the happieil mould arc capable of fulling, with ex- 
ad juft tie fs, their feniiments and behaviour to the 
fmalieft difference of fituation, and of ading upon 
all occafions with the mofi: delicate and accurate 
propriety. The coarfe clay of which the bulk of 
mankind are formed, cannot be wrought up to fuch 
perfection. There is fcarce any man, however, 
who by difcipline, education, and example, may not 
be impreiTed with a regard to general rules, as to adt 
upon almofl every occafion with toleiable decency, 
and through the whole of his life avoid any confi- 
derabie degree of blame. 

Without this facred regard to general rules, there 
is no man whofe conduct can be much depended 
upon. It is this which conftitutes the mofl eliential 
difference between a man of principle and honour 
and a worthlefs fellov^A. Xhe one adheres, oh all 
occafions, fteadily and refolutely to his maxims, 
and preferves through the v/liole of his life one even 
tenour of condudt. The other, ads varioufly and 
accidentally, as humujr, inclination, or interelt 
chance to be uppermoft. Nay, fuch are the ine- 
qualities of humour to which all men are fubjedt, 
that without this principle, the man who, in his cool 
hours, had the mofl delicate fenfibility to the' pro- 
priety of condudt, might often be led to ad ab- 
furdly upon the moft frivolous occ^ions, and when 
it v/as fcarce poilible to aihgn any ferious motive for 
his behaviour in this manner. Your friend makes 
you a vifit when you happen to be in a humour 
which makes it difagreeable to receive him : in your 
prefent mood this civility is very apt to appear an 
impertinent intrufion ; and if youv/ereto give way 
to the views of things which at time occur, 

P though 

2IO Of the Sens t Part Hi. 

though civil in your temper, 3-0U would behave to 
him with coldnels and contempt. What renders 
you incapable of fuch a rudeneis, is nothing but a 
regard to the general rules of civility and hofpitality, 
which prohibit it. That habitual reverence which 
your former experience has taught you for thefe, 
enables you to ad, upon all fuch occafions, with 
nearly equal propriety, and hinders thofe inequa- 
lities of temper, to which all men are fubjed, from 
influencing your conduct in any very fenfible degree. 
But if without regard to thefe general rules, even 
the duties of politenefs, which are fo eafily obferv- 
ed, and vvhich can fcarce have any ferious motive 
to violate, would yet be fo frequently violated, 
what would become of the duties of juflice, of 
truth, of chaftity, of fidelity, which it is often fo 
difficult to obferve, and which there miay be fo ma- 
ny flrong motives to violate ? But upon the toler- 
able obiervance of thefe duties, depends the very 
exiflence of human fociety, which would crumble 
into nothing if mankind v/ere not generally impref- 
fed with a reverence for thofe important rules of 

This reverence is flill further enhanced by an opi- 
nion which is firft imprelfed by nature, and after- 
wards confirmed by teafoning and philofophy, that 
. thofe important rules of morality, are the commands 
and laws of the Deity, who will finally reward the 
obedient, and punifla the traufgreifors of their duty. 

This opinion or apprehenfion, I fay, feems firll to 
be impreiled by nature. Men are naturally led to 
afciibe to thofe myfterious beings, whatever they 
are, which happen, in any country, to be the ob- 


Chap. 3. </ D tj T Y. 211 

jeds of religious fear, all their own fentrments and 
paffions. They have no other, they can conceive 
no other to afcribe to them. Thofe unknown in- 
telligences which they imagine but fee not, mull 
necefiarily be formed with fome fort of refemblance 
to thofe intelligences of which they have experience. 
During the ignorance and darknefs of pagan fuper- 
ftition, mankind feem to have formed the ideas of 
their divinities with (o little delicacy, that they af- 
cribed to them, indifcriminately, all the paflions of 
human nature, thofe not excepted which do the 
leaft honour to our fpecies, fuch as luft, hunger, 
avarice, envy, revenge. They could not fail there- 
fore, to afcribe to thofe beings, for the excellence 
of whofe nature they llill conceived the higheil ad- 
miration, thofe fentiments and qualities which are 
the great ornaments of humanity, and which feem 
to raife it to a refemblance of divine perfection, the 
love of virtue and beneficence, and the abhorrence 
of viceand injullice. The man who was injured, 
called upon Jupiter to be m itnefs of the wrong that 
was done to him, and could not doubt, but that di- 
vine being would behold it with the fame indigna- 
tion which would animate the meanefl of man- 
kind, who looked on when injuflice was committed. 
The man who did the injury, felt himfelf to be 
the proper objedt of deteflation and refentment of 
mankind ; and his natural fears led him to impute 
the fame fentiments to thofe awful beings, whofe 
prefence he could not avoid, and whofe power he 
could not refift. Thefe natural hopes and fears, 
and fufpicions, were propagated by fympatliy, and 
confirmed by education ; and the gods were univer- 
fally reprefented and believed to be the rewarders 
of humanity and mercy, and the avengers of per- 

P 2 " fidy 

212 Of the S E li s E Part III. 

fidy and injuftice. And thus religion, even in its 
rudeft form, gave a fandion to the rules of mora- 
lity, long before the age of artificial reafoning and 
philofophy. That the terrors of religion flionld 
thus enforce the natural fenie of duty^ was of too 
much importance to the happinefs of mankind, for 
nature to leave it dependent upon the llownefs and 
uncertainty of philofophical refearches. 

Thefe refearches, however, when they came to 
take place, confirmed thofe original anticipations of 
nature Upon v/hatever we fuppofe that our moral 
faculties are founded, whether upon a certain modi- 
fication of reafon, upon an original inflind, called a 
moral fenfe, or upon fome other principle of our 
nature, it cannot be doubted, that they were given 
us for the diredion of our condud in this life. They 
carry along with tliem the moll evident badges of 
this authority, which denote that they were fet up 
within us to be the fupreme arbiters of all our actions, 
to fuperintend all our fenfes, paflions, and appetites, 
and to judge how far each of them was either to be 
indulged or reftrained. Our moral faculties are by no 
means, as fome have pretended, upon a level in this 
refped with the other facuhiesand appetites of our 
nature, endowed with no more right to reftrain thefe 
lafl, than thefe lafl are to rcdrain them. No other 
faculty or principle of adtion judges of any other. 
Love does not judge of refentment, nor refentment 
of love. Thofe two pafTions may be oppofite to one 
another, but cannot, with any propriety, be faid to 
approveordifapprove of one another. But it is the 
peculiar office of thofe faculties now under our con- 
fideration to judge, to beflow cenfure or applaufe 
upon all the other principles of our nature. They 


Chap. 3. ^/ D u T Y. 215 

may be confidered as a fort of fenfes of which thofe 
principles are the objedls. Every fenfe is fupreme 
over its own objeds. There is no appeal from the 
eye with regard to the beauty of colours, nor from 
the ear with regard to the harmony of founds, nor 
from the tafte with regard to the agreeabienefs of 
flavours. Each of diofe fenfes Judges in the lafl 
refort of its own objeds. Whatever gratifies the 
tafte is fweet, whatever pleafes the eye is beautiful, 
whatever fooths the ear is harmonious. The very 
eflence of each of thofe qualities confifls in being 
fitted to pleafethe {cnft to which it is addrelfed. It 
belongs to our moral faculties, in the fame manner 
to determine when the ear ought to be foothed, when 
the eye ought to be indulged, when the tafte ought 
to be gratified, when and how far every other prin- 
ciple of our nature ought to be indulged or reflrain- 
ed. What is agreeable to our moral faculties, is fit, 
and right, and proper to be done ; the contrary 
wrong, unfit, and improper. The fentiments v/hich 
they approve of, are graceful and unbecoming. The 
very words, right, wrong, fit, improper, graceful, 
unbecoming, mean oiily what pleafes or difpleafes 
thofe faculties, 

Since thefe, therefore, were plainl)^ intended to be 
the governing principles of human nature, the rules 
which they prescribe, are to be regarded as the com- 
mands and laws of the Deity, promulgated by thofe 
vicegerents which he has thus fet up within us. All 
general rules are commonly denominated laws : thus 
the general rules which bodies obferve in the com- 
munication of motion, are called the laws of motion. 
But thofe general rules which our moral faculties 
obferve in approving or condemning whatever fenti- 

P 3 ment 

214 Of the S E -N s E Part ill. 

ment or a(5lion is fubjedled to their examination, may 
much more jiiflly be denominated fuch. They have 
a much greater refemblance to what are properly call- 
ed laws, thofe general rules which the ibvereign lays 
down to diredt the conduct of his fubjedls. Like 
them they are rules to diredt the free actions of men : 
they are prefcribed moil furely by a lawful fuperior, 
and are attended to in the fandicn of rewards and 
puniihments. Thofe vicegerents of God within us, 
never fail to punifn the violation of them, by the tor- 
ments of inward fhame, and felf-condemnation ; 
and on the contrary, always reward obedience with 
tranquillity of nnind, with contentment, and felf-fa- 

There are mnumerable other confiderations which 
(erve to confirm the fame conclufion. The happi- 
nefs of mankind, as well as of all other rational 
creatures, feem.s to have been the original pur- 
pofe intended by the Author of nature, when he 
brought them into exigence. No other end feems 
worthy of that fupreme wifdom and divine benig- 
nity which we necelllirily afcribe to him -, and this 
opinion, v/hich we are led to by the abftradt confider- 
ation of his infinite perfetflions, is ilill more con- 
fir nied by the examination of the works of nature, 
which feem all intended to promote happinefs, and 
to guard againft miiery. But by adling according 
to the dictates of our moral faculties, we necelTarily 
purfue the moft effedual means for promoting the 
happinefs of mankind, and may therefore be faid, 
in fome fenfe, to co-operate with the Deity, and to 
advance as far as in our power the plan of Provi- 
dence. By ading otherways, on the contrary, we 
feem to obftrud, in fome m^eafure, the fcheme 
which the Author of nat;tre has eflablifhed for the 


Chap. 3. 0/ D u T Y. 215 

happinefs and perfedtion of the world, and to de- 
clare ourfelves, if I may fay fo, in fon:ie meafure the 
enemies of God. Hence we are naturally encou- 
raged to hcpe for his extraordinary favour and re- 
ward in the one cafe, and to dread his vengfeaPjCe 
and punifhment in the other. 

There are befides many other reafons, and many 
other natural principles, which all tend to confirm 
and inculcate the fame falutary dodrine. If we con- 
fider the general rules by which external profperity 
and adverfity are commonly diflributed in tliis life, 
we fhall find, that notwithftanding the diforder in 
v/hich all things appear to be in this world, yet even 
here every virtue naturally meets with its proper re- 
ward, with the recompenfe which is mofl fit to en- 
courage and promote it j and this too fo furely, that 
it requires a very extraordinary concurrence of cir- 
cumftances entirely to difappoint it. What is the 
reward mofl proper for encouraging induftry, pru^ 
dence, and circumfpedlion ^ Succefs in every fort 
of bufinefs. And is it polUble that in the whole of 
life thefe virtues fhould fail of attaining it ? Wealth 
and external honours are their proper recompenfe, 
and the recompenfe which they can feldom fail of 
acquiring. What reward is moft proper for pro- 
moting the pradHce of truth, juftice, and humanity ? 
The confidence, the efleem, and love of thofe we 
live with. Humanity does not defire to be great, 
but to be beloved. It is not in being rich that truth 
and juflice would rejoice, but in being trufted and 
believed, recompenfes which thofe virtues muft al- 
moft always acquire. By fome very extraordinary 
and unlucky circumflance, a good man may come 
to be' fufpeded of a crime of which he was altoge- 

P 4 ther 

21 6 Of tbe S E 1^ s E Part III 

iher incapable, and upon that account be moft un- 
iiillly expofed for the remaining part of his life to 
the horror and averfion of mankind. By an acci- 
dent of this kind he may be faid to lofe h's all, not- 
witbflanding his integrity and juflice •, in the fam^e 
manner as a cautious man, notwithilanding his ut- 
moil circ'umfpeclion, m.ay be ruined by an earth- 
quake or an inundation. Accidents of the fiift 
kind, however, are perhaps itill miore rare, and iViU 
more contrary to the common courfe of things than 
thofe of the fecond ; and flill it remiains true, that the 
pradlice of truth, jullice, and humanity, is a certain 
and aimofl infallible method of acquiring what thofe 
virtues chiefly aim at, the confidence and love of 
thofe we hve with. A perfon m.ay be very eafily 
mifreprefented with regard to a particular adion ^ 
but it is fcarce pollible that he fhould be fo with re- 
gard to the general tenor of his condud. An inno- 
cent man may be believed to have done wrong : 
this, however, will rarely happen. On the contra- 
ry, the eftabhfhed opinion of the irmocence of his 
manners, will often lead us to abfolve him where he 
has really been in the fault, notwithftanding very 
ilrcng preftimptions. A knave, in the fame man- 
ner may efcape cenfure, or even meet applaufe, for 
a particular knavery, in which his condudt is not 
undeiflood. But no man was ever habitually fuch, 
witliout being almoft univerfally known to be fo, 
and without being even frequently fufpeded of 
guilt, when he was in reality perfedly innocent. 
And fo far as vice and virtue can be either punillied 
or rewarded by the fentiments and opinions of man- 
kind, they both, according to the common courie 
of things, meet even here with fomething more 
than exad and impartial juflice. 


Chap. 3. r/ D u T Y. 217 

But thoiigh the general rules by which profperity 
and adverfity are commonly diftributed, when con- 
fidered in this cool and philoiophical light, appear to 
be . perfedly fuited to tlie fituation of mankind in 
this life, yet tliey are by no means fuited to fome of 
ournatural fentim.ents. Our natural love and ad- 
miration for fome virtues is fuch, that we iTiould 
wifii to bellow on them all forts of honours and re- 
v/ards, even thofe which we mufl acknowledge to 
be the proper recompenfes of other quahties with 
v/hich thofe virtues are not always accompanied. 
Our detellation, on the contrary, for fome vices is 
fiich, that we fhould defire to heap upon them every 
fort of difgrace and difailer, thofe not excepted 
wliichare the natural confequences of very different 
qualities. Magnanimity, generofity, and juflice 
command fo high a degree of admiration, that we 
defu'c to fee them crowned with wealth, and power, 
and honours of every kind, the natural confequences 
of prudence, induilry, and application ; qualities 
with which thofe virtues are not infeparably conned- 
ed. Fraud, falfehood, brutality, and violence, on 
the other hand, excite in every human breafl fuch 
fcorn and abhorrence, that our indignation roufes to 
fee them poffefs thofe advantages which they may in 
fome fenfe be faid to have mxerited, by the diligence 
and induftry w^ith which they are fometimes attended. 
The induflrious knave cultivates the foil -, the indo- 
lent good man leaves it uncultivated. Who ought 
to reap the harveft .? Who ftarve, and who live in 
plenty? The natural courfe of things decides it in 
favour of the knave : the natural fentiments of man- 
kind in favour of the man of virtue. Man judges, 
that the good qualities of the one are greatly over-re- 
compenfed by thofe advantages which they tend to 


21 8 Of //^^ S E N s E PartllL 

procure hiin, and that the omiflions of the other are 
by far too feverely punillied by the diftrefs which 
they naturally bring upon him ^ and human laws, 
the confequences of human fentiments, forfeit the 
life and the eitate of the induftrious and cautious 
traitor, and reward, by extraordinary recompcnfes, 
the fidelity and public fpirit of the improvident and 
carelefs good citizen. Thus man is by Nature di- 
reded to corredt, in fome meafure, that diftribution 
of things which fhe herfelf would other wife have 
made. The rules which for this purpofe fhe prompts 
him 10 follow, are different from thofe which fhe 
herfelt obferves. She befhoivs upon every virtue, and 
upon every vice, that precife reward or punifhment 
which is beil fitted to encourage the one, or to re- 
ilrain the other. She is direded by this fole confide- 
ration, and pays little regard to the different degrees 
of merit and demerit, which they may feem to poiTefs 
in the fentiments and palTions of man. Man, on 
the contrary, pays regard to this only, and would 
endeavour to render the flate of every virtue precifely 
proportioned to that degree of love and efteem, and 
of every vice to that degree of contempt and abhor- 
rence, which he himfelf conceives for it. The rules 
which fhe follows are fit for her, thofe which he fol- 
lows for him : but both are calculated to promote the 
fame great end, the order of the world, and the per- 
fection and happinefs of human nature. 

But though is thus employed to alter that 
diflribution of things which natural events would 
make, if left to themfelves; though, like the gods 
of the poets, he is perpetually interpofing, by extra- 
ordinary means, in favour of virtue, and in oppofiti- 
on to vice, and like tliem, endeavours to turn away 


Chap. 3. c/ D u T Y. zig 

the arrow that is aimed at the head of the righteous, 
but accelerates the fword of deilrudion that is lifted 
up againft the wicked ; yet he is by no means able 
to render the fortune of either quite fuitable to his 
own fentiments and wifhes. The natural courfe of 
things cannot be entirely controuled by the impo- 
tent endeavours of man : the current is too rapid and 
too flrong for him to flop it •, and though tht rules 
which direct it appear to have been eftablidied for 
the wifell and bed purpofes, they fometimes pro- 
duce effeds which fhock all his natural fentiments. 
Tliat a, great combination of men, fhould prevail 
over a fmall one ; that thofe who engage in an en- 
terpriie with fore-thought and all neceffary prepara- 
tion, fhould prevail over fijch as oppofe them with- 
out any ; and that every end fhould be acquired by 
thofe means only which Nature has ellablifhed for 
acquiring it, feems to be a rale not only necelTary 
and unavoidable in itfelf, but even ufeful and proper 
for roufmg the induftry and attention of mankind. 
Yet, when, in confequence of this rule, violence and 
artifice prevail over fmcerity andjuftice, what indig- 
nation does it not excite in the breaft of every humane 
fpedator ? What forrow and compaiiion for the 
iufferings of the innocent, and what furious refent- 
ment againft the fuccefs of the opprelTor ? We are 
equally grieved and enraged, at the wrong that is 
done, but often find it altogether out of our power 
to redrefs it. When we thus defpair of finding any 
force upon earth which can check the triumph of 
injuftice, we naturally appeal to Heaven, and hope, 
that the great Author of our nature will himfelf exe- 
cute hereafter, what all the principles which he has 
given us for the diredion of our conduct, prompt us 
Xo attempt even here ; that he will complete the 


Z20 0/ /Z'^ S E N s E Part III. 

plan which he himfelf has thus taught us to begin ; 
and will, in a life to come, render to every one ac- 
cording to the works which he has performed in this 
world. And thus we are led to the belief of a future 
ilate, not only by the weaknefTes, by the hopes and 
fears of human nature, but by the nobleft and belt 
principles which belong to it, by the love of virtue, 
and by the abhorrence of vice and injuflice. 


Dees it fuit the greatnefs of God," fays the elo- 
quent and phiiofophical bifhop of Clermont, with 
that palTionate and exaggerating force of imaginati- 
on, v/hich feems fometimes to exceed the bounds of 
decorum •, '^ does it fuit the greatnefs of God, to 
leave the world which he has created in fo uni- 
verfal a diforder ? To fee the wicked prevail al- 
mofl: always over the juft ; the innocent dethroned 
by the ufurper ; the father become the victim of 
the ambition of an unnatural fon ; the hufband 
expiring under the llroke of a barbarous and failh- 
lefs wife ? From the height of his greatnefs ought 
God to behold thofe melancholy events as a fan-r 
taflical amufement, without taking any fhare in 
them ? Becaufe he is great, fhould he be weak, 
or unjull, or barbarous ? Becaufe men are little, 
ought they to be allowed either to be diilolute 
without punifliment, or virtuous without reward ? 
O God ! if this is the character of your Supreme 
Being •, if it is you whom we adore under fuch 
dreadful ideas ; I can no longer acknowledge you 
for my father, for my protedtor, for the comforter 
of my forrow, the fupport of my weaknefs, the 
rewarderofmy fidelity. You would then be no 
more than an indolent and fantaflical tyrant, who 
facrifices mankind to his infolent vanity, and who 


'' ha 


Chap. 3. of D u T Y. 221 

*' has brought them out of nothing, only to make 
*' them ferve for the fport of his leifure, and of his 
" caprice." 

When the general rules which determine the me- 
rit and dement ofadions, come thus to be regarded, 
as the laws of an All-powerful Being, Vv^ho watches 
over our condud, and who, in a life to come, will 
reward the obfervance, and punifh the breach of 
them ; they neceiTarily acquire anew facrednefs from 
this confideration. That our regard to the will of 
tlie Deity, ought to be the lupreme rule of our con- 
duel, can be doubted of by no body who believes 
his exiltence. The very thought of difobedience 
appears to involve in it the mod fhocking improprie- 
ty. How vain, how abfurd would it be for man, 
either to oppofe or to negled the commands that 
were laid upon him by Infinite Wifdom, and Infi- 
nite Power ! How unnatural, how impioufly un- 
grateful not to reverence the precepts that were pre- 
fcribed to him by the infinite goodnefs of his Creator, 
even though no punifliment was to follow their vio- 
lation. The fenfe of propriety too is here well fup- 
ported by the ilrongell motives of felf-intereft. 
The idea that, however we may efcape the obferva- 
tion of man, or be placed above the reach of human 
punifhment, yet we are always ading under the eye, 
and expofed to the punifhment of God, the great 
avenger of injiiflice, is a motive capable of reftrain- 
ing the moft headftrong paffions, with thcfe at lead 
who, by conftant reflection, have rendered it fami- 
liar to them. 

It is in this manner that religion enforces the na- 
tural fenfe of duty : and hence it is, that mankind 


222 Of the Sense Part III. 

are generally difpofed to place gi^eat confidence in 
the probity of thofe who feem deeply imprelTed with 
religious fentiments. Such perfons, they imagine, 
a6t under an additional tye, befides thofe which re- 
gulate the condudt of other men. The regard to the 
propriety of adlion as well as to reputation, the re- 
gard to the applaufe of his own breail, as well as theit 
of others, are motives which they fuppofe have the 
fame influence over the religious man, as over the 
man of the world. But the former lies under ano- 
ther reftraint, and never ads deliberately but as in 
the prefence of that Great Superior who is finally to 
recompenfe him according to his deeds. A greater 
truft isrepofed, upon this account, in the regularity 
and exadtnefs of his conduct. And wherever the 
natural principles of religion are not corrupted by the 
fadious and party zeal of fome worthlefs cabal ; 
wherever the firft duty which it requires, is to fulfil 
all the obligations of morality ; wherever men are not 
taught to regard frivolous obfervances, as more im- 
mediate duties of religion, than adts of juftice and 
beneficence ; and to imagine, that by facrifices, and 
ceremonies, and vain fupplications, they can bargain 
with the Deity, for fraud, and perfidy, and violence, 
the world undoubtedly judges right in this refpedt, 
andjuftly places a double confidence in thereditude 
of the religious man's behaviour. 


Chap. 4. ^/ D u T Y. 22: 

G H A P. IV. 

In ivhat cafes the fenfe of duty ought to be the fole princi- 
ple of our coyidiiB ; and in what cafes it ought to concur 
with other motives. 

.E L I G I O N affords fuch ftrong motives to 
the pradice of virtue, and guards us by fuch 
powerful reftraints from the temptations of vice, 
that many have been led to fuppofe, that religious 
principles were the fole laudable motives of adion. 
We ought neither, they faid, to reward from grati- 
tude, nor punilh from refentment ; 'we ought nei- 
ther to protedt the helpleffnefs of our children, nor 
afford fupport to the infirmities of our parents, from 
natural affedion. All affedions for particular objeds, 
ought to be extinguifhed in our breaft, and one 
great affedion take the place of all others, the love 
of the Deity, the defire of rendering ourfelves agree- 
able to him, and of direding our condud in every 
refped according to his will. We ought not to be 
grateful from gratitude, we ought not to be charita- 
ble from humanity, we otight not to be public-fpirited 
from the love of our country, nor generous and jufl 
from the love of mankind. The fole principle and 
motive of our condud in the performance of all thofe 
different duties, ought to be a fenfe that God has 


224 Of the Sense Part IIL 

commanded us to perform them. I Ihall not at pre- 
fent take time to examine this opinion particularly ; 
I fhall only obferve, that, we fliould not haveexpeded 
to have found it entertained by any feci, who pro- 
feffed them.felves of a religion in which, as it is the 
firft precept to love the Lord our God with all our 
heart, with all our foul, and with all our flrength, fo 
it is the fecond to love our neighbour as we love 
ourfelves ; and we love ourfelves furely for our own 
fakes, and not merely becaufe w^e are commanded 
to do fo. That the feafe of duty fnoul^ be the fole 
principle of our condud:, is no where the precept of 
Chriuianity ; but that it fliould be the ruling and 
governing one, as philofophy, and as, indeed, com- 
mon fenfe direcls. It may be a queftion however, 
in what cafes our adtlons ought to arife chiefly or en- 
tirely from a fenfe of duty, or from a regard to gene- 
ral rules ; and in what cafes fome other fentiment or 
aftedtion ought to concur, and have a principal in- 

The decifion of this queflion, which cannot, 
perliaps, be given v/ith any very great accuracy, will 
depend upon two different circumfliances ; firft, 
upon the natural agreeablenefs or deformity of the 
fentiment or atfeclion v/hich would prompt ns to any 
adlton independent of all regard to general rules ; 
and fecondly, upon the precifion and exadtnefs, or 
the loofenefs and inaccuracy of the general rules 

I. Firfl:, I fay, it will depend upon the natural 
agreeablenefs or deformity of the affedion itfelf, how 
far our adions ought to arife from it, or entirely pro- 
ceed from a regard to the p;eneral rule. 


Chap. 4, ^/ D tJ T y. 225 

All thofe graceful and admired actions, to which 
the benevolent affcdions would prompt us, ought 
to proceed as much from the pafTions themfelves, as 
from any regard to the general rules of condudto 
A benefadlor thinks himfelf but ill requited, if the 
perfon upon whom he has bellowed his good offices, 
repays them merely from a cold fenfe of duty, and 
without any affedion to his perfon. A hufband is 
dilTatisfied with the mod obedient wife, when he 
imagines her condudt is animated by no other prin- 
ciple befides her regard to what the relation flie 
Hands in requires. Though a fon fhould fail in none 
of the offices of filial duty, yet if he wants that af- 
fedlionate reverence which it fo well becomes him to 
feel, the parent may juftly complain of his indiffi^r- 
ence. Nor could a fon be quite fatisfied with a pa- 
rent who, though he performed all the duties of his 
fituation, had nothing of that fatherly fondnefs 
•which might have been expedted from him. With 
regard to all fuch benevolent and focial affedtions, ic 
is agreeable to fee the fenfe of duty employed rather 
to rellrain than to enliven them, rather to hinder us 
from doing too much, than to prompt us to do what 
we ought. It gives us pieafure to fee a father obliged 
to check his own fondnefs, a friend obliged to fee 
bounds to his natural generoHty, a perfon who has 
received a benefit, obliged to reftrain the too fan- 
guine gratitude of his own temper. 

The contrary maxim takes place with regard to the 
malevolent and unfocial paffions. We ought to re- 
v^ard from the gratitude and generofity of our own 
hearts, without any reludance, and without being 
obliged to refled: how great the propriety of reward- 
ing ; but vye Oiight always to punifli with reludance, 

Q^ and 

226 Of the S E ^ s E Part IIL 

and more from a fenfe of the propriety of puniihing 
than from any favage difpofition to revenge. No- 
thing is more graceful than the behaviour of the 
man who appears to refent the greateft injuries, more 
from a fenfe that they deferve, and are the proper 
objecls of refentment, than from feeling himfelf the 
furies of that difagreeable paffion i who, like a judge, 
confiders only the general rule, which determines 
what vengeance is due for each particular offence j 
who, in executing that rule, feels lefs for what him- 
felf has fuffered, than what the offender is about to 
fuffer J who, though in wrath remembers mercy, and 
is difpofed to interpret the rule in the mod gentle and 
favourable manner, and to allow all the alleviations 
which the moft candid humanity could, confiftcntly 
with good fenfe, admit of. 

As the felfifh pafTions, according to what has for- 
merly been obferved, hold in other refpedls a fort of 
middle place, between the focial and unfocial afFedli-* 
ons, fo do they likewife in this. The purfuit of the 
objects of private in tereft, in all common, little, and 
ordinary cafes, ought to flow rather from a regard 
to the general rules which prefcribe fuch conduct, 
than from any pafTion for the objedls themfelves ; 
but upon more important and extraordinary occafi- 
ons, we fliould be awkward, infipid, and ungrace- 
ful, if the objedls themfelves did not appear to ani- 
mate us with a confiderable degree of pafTion. To 
be anxious, or to be laying a plot either to gain or 
to fave a fmgle fliilling, would degrade the moft vuK 
gar tradefman in the opinion of all his neighbours. 
Let his circumftances be ever fo mean, no attention 
to any fuch fmall matters, for the fake of the things 
themfelvesj muft appear in his condud. His fitu- 


Ghap. 4. - cf D u r y, 227 

ation may require the mofl fcvere ceconomy, and the 
mod exatfl afliduity : but each particular exertion of 
that oeconomy and afliduity mud proceed not fo 
much from a regard for tha.t particular faving or 
gain, as for the general rule which to him prefcribes, 
with the utmoft rigour, fuch a tenour of condudt. 
His parfimony to-day muft not arife from a defire of 
the particular three-pence which he will fave by it, 
nor his attendance in his fliop from a paflion for the 
particular ten-pence which he will acquire by it : 
both the one and the other ought to proceed foleiy 
from a regard to the general rule, which prefcribes, 
with the moft unrelenting feverity, this plan of con- 
dud to all perfons in his way of life. In this con- 
fifts the difference between the character of a mifer, 
and that of a perfon of exa6t oeconomy and aflidui- 
ty. The one is anxious about fmall matters for 
their own fake -, the other attends to them only in 
confequence of the fcheme of life which he has 
laid down to himfelf. 

It is quite otherwife with regard to the more ex- 
traordinary and important objeds of felf-interell, 
A perfon appears mean-fpirited, who does not pur- 
fue thefe with fome degree of earneflhefs for their 
own fake. We fliould defpife a prince who was not 
anxious about conquering or defending a province. 
We fliould have little refpe^l for a private gentlemani 
who did not exert himfelf to gain an eltate, or even 
a cohflderable oflice, when he could acquire them 
without either meannefs or injuftice. A member of 
parliament who fliews no keennefs about his own 
ele6tion, is abandoned by his friends, as altogether 
unworthy of their attachment; Even a tradefman is 

Q^Z thought 

228 Of the Sense Part III. 

thought a poor-fpirited fellow among his neigh- 
bours, who does not beftir himfelf to get what they 
call an extraordinary job, or fome uncommon ad- 
vantage. This ipirit and keennefs conftitutes the 
difference between the man of enterprife and the 
man of dull regularity. Thofe great objedls of 
felf-intereft, of which the lofs or acquifition quite 
changes the rank of the perfon, are the objeds of 
the pallion properly called ambition ; a pafTion, 
which when it keeps within the bounds of prudence 
and juftice, is always admired in the world, and has 
even fometimes a certain irregular greatnefs, which 
dazzles the imagination, when it pafTes the limits of 
both thefe virtues, and is not only unjuft but extra- 
vagant. Hence the general admiration for Heroes 
and Conquerors, and even for Statefmen, whofe pro- 
jeds have been very daring and extenfive, though 
altogether devoid of juftice-, fuch as thofe of the 
Cardinals of Richlieu and of Retz. The objedls of 
avarice and ambition differ only in their greatnefs. 
A mifer is as furious about a halfpenny, as a man 
of ambition about the conqueft of a kingdom. 

ll. Secondly, I fay, it will depend partly upon 
the precifion and exadlnefs, or the loofenefs and in- 
accuracy of the general rules themfeives, how far 
our condudl ought to proceed entirely from a re- 
gard to them. 

The general rules of almofb all the virtues, the 
general rules which determine what are the offices of 
prudence, of charicy, of generofity, of gratitude, 
of frienddiip, are in many rerpe(5ls loofe and inaccu- 
rate, admit of many exceptions, and require {o many 
modifications, that it is fcarce poUibie to regulate our 


Chap. 4. ^/ D u T Y. 229 

condud entirely by a regard to them. The common 
proverbial maxims of prudence, being founded in 
univerfal experience, are perhaps the bed general 
rules which can be given about it. To affed, howe- 
ver, a very ftrid and literal adherence to them would 
evidently be the mod abfurd and ridiculous pedan- 
try. Of all the virtues I have juft now mentioned, 
gratitude is that, perhaps, of which the rules are the 
mod precife, and admit of the feweft exceptions. 
That as foon as we can we (hould make a return of 
equal, and if pofTible of fuperior value to the fer- 
vices we have received, would feem to be a pretty 
plain rule, and one which admitted of fcarce any ex- 
ceptions. Upon the mofh fuperficial examination, 
however, this rule will appear to be in the higheft 
degree loofe and inaccurate, and to admit of ten 
thoufand exceptions. If your benefadlor attended 
you in your ficknefs, ought you to attend him in 
his ? or can you fulfil the obligation of gratitude, 
by making a return of a different kind ? If you 
ought to attend him, how long ought you to attend 
him ? The fame time which he attended you, or 
longer, and how much longer ? If your friend lent 
you money in your diftrefs, ought you to lend him 
money in his ? How much ought you to lend him ? 
When ought you to lend him ? Now, or to-morrow, 
or next month ? And for how long a time ? It is 
evident, that no general rule can be laid down, by 
v^hich a precife anfwer can, in all cafes, be given to 
any of thefe queftions. The difference between his 
chara6ler and yours, between his circumftances and 
yours, may be fuch, that you may be perfedly 
grateful, and juftly refufe to lend him a halfpenny : 
and, on the contrar)^, you may be willing to lend, 
or even to give him ten times the fum which he lent 

Q„ 3 yo^^ 

1^0 Of /i?^ S E N s t Part III. 

you, and yet juftly be accufed of the blackeft ingra- 
titude, and of not having fulfilled the hundredth 
part of the obligation you lie under. As the duties 
of gratitude, however, are perhaps the moft facred 
of all thofe which the beneficent virtues prefcribe to 
us, fo the general rules which determine them are, 
as I faid before, the moft accurate. Thofe which 
afcertain the adions required by friendfhip, humani- 
ty, hofpitality, generofity, are ftill more vague and 

There is, however, one virtue of which the gene- 
ral rules determine with the greateft exadnefs every 
external adion which it requires. This virtue is 
juftice. The rules of juftice are accurate in the 
highell degree, and admit of no exceptions or modi- 
fications, but fuch as may be afcertained as accurate- 
ly as the rules themfelves, and which generally, in- 
deed, fiow from the very fame principles with them. 
If 1 owe fi man ten pounds, juftice requires that I 
fliould precifely pay him ten pounds, either at the 
time agreed upon, or when he demands it. What I 
ought to perform, how much I ought to perform, 
when and where I ought to perform it, the whole 
nature and circumftances of the adlion prefcribcd, 
are all of them precifely fixt and determined. Though 
it may be awkvvard and pedantic, therefore, to af- 
fect too ftri(5l an adherence to the common rules of 
prudence or generofity, there is no pedantry in ftick- 
ing fall; by the rules of juftice. On the contrary, 
the moft facred regard is due to them ; and the ani- 
ons which this virtue requires are never fo properly 
performed, as when the chief motive for perform- 
ing them is a reverential and religious regard to thofe 
general rules which require them. In the pra.ftice of 


Chap. 4. of D V T Y. 231 

the other virtues, our condudl ihouid rather be 
diredled by a certain idea of propriety, by a certain 
tafte for a particular tenour of condud, than by any 
regard to a precife maxim or rule ; and we lliould 
confider the end and foundation of the rule, more 
than the rule itfelf. But it is otherwife with regard 
tojuftice: the man who in that refines the lead, 
and adheres with the mod obftinate ftedfaftnefs, to 
the general rules themfelves, is the mod commenda- 
ble, and the mod to be depended upon. Though 
the end of the rules of judice be, to hinder us 
from hurting our neighbour, it may frequently be a 
crime to violate them, though we could pretend^ 
with fome preiext of reafon, that this particular vio- 
lation could do no hurt. A man often becomes a 
villain the moment he begins even in his own hearty 
to chicane in this -manner. The moment he thinks 
of departing from the mod daunch and pofitive ad- 
herence to what thofe inviolable precepts prefcribe 
to him, he is no longer to be truded, and no man 
can fay what degree of guilt lie may not arrive at. 
The thief imagines he does no evil, when he deals 
from the rich, what he fuppofes they may eafily 
want, and what podibly they may never even 
know has been dolen from them. The adulterer 
imagines he does no evil, when he corrupts the 
wife of his friend, provided he covers his intrigue 
from the fufpicion of the hufband, and does not 
didurb the peace of the family. When once we 
begin to give way to fuch refinements, there is 
no enormity fo grofs of which we may not be capa- 

The rules of judice may be compared to the rules 
Qi grammar \ the rules of the other virtues to the 

0^4 rules 


232 Of tbs Sense Fart IIL 

rules which criticks lay down for the attainment of 
what is fublime and elegant in compofition. The 
one, are precife, accurate, and indifpenfable. The 
other, are loore, vague, and indeterminate, and 
prefent us rather with a general idea of the perfedi- 
on we ought to aim at, than afford us any certain 
and infallible dire6lions for acquiring it. A man 
may learn to write grammatically by rule, with the 
mod abfolute infallibility; and fo, perhaps, he may 
|be taught to a6l juflly. But there are no rules whofe 
obferyance will infallibly lead us to the attainment 
of elegance or fublimity in writing, though there are 
fome which may help us, in fome meafure, to cor- 
re61: and afcertain the vague ideas which we might 
otherwife have entertained of thofe perfeftions : and 
there are no rules by the knowledge of which we can 
infallibly be taught to ad upon all occafions with 
prudence, with juft magnanimity, or proper bene- 
ficence. Though there are fome which may enable 
ps to corredi; and afcertain in feveral refpefts, the 
imperfe(^l ids^as which we might otherwife have en- 
tertained of thofe virtues. 

It may fometimes happen, that with the mofi: fe- 
rious and earnell defire of ad:ing fo as to deferve ap- 
probation, v/e may miftake the proper rules of con- 
dud, and thus be milled by that very principle 
which ought to direct us. It is in vain to expe6l, 
that in this cafe mankind fhould entirely approve of 
our behaviour. They cannot enter into that abfurd 
idea of duty which influenced us, nor go along with 
any of the actions which follow from it. There is 
fllil, however, fomething refpedlable in the charac- 
fer and behaviour of one who is thus betrayed into 


Chap. 4' ^/ Duty. 233 

vice, by a wrong fenfe of duty, or by what is called 
an erroneous confcience. How fatally foever he 
may be milled by it, he is ftiil, with the generous 
and humane, more the object of commiferation than 
of hatred or refentment. They lament the weak- 
nefs of human nature, which expofes us to fuch un- 
happy delufions, even while we are mofl: fincerely 
labouring after perfe6lion, and endeavouring to a6l 
according to the befl principle which can pofTibly 
dircft us. Falie notions of religion are almofl the 
only caufes which can occafion any very grofs per- 
, verfion of our natural fentiments in this way ; and 
that principle which gives the greatefl authority 
to the rules of duty, is alone capable of diitorting 
our ideas of them in any confiderable degree. In 
all other cafes common knCc is fufficient to direct 
lis, if not to the mofl exquifite propriety of condud, 
yet to fom.ething which is not very far from it; and 
provided we are in earneft defirous to do well, our 
behaviour will always, upon the whole, be praife- 
worthy. That to obey the will of the Deity, is the 
firil rule of duty, all men are agreed. But con- 
cerning the particular commandments which that 
will may impofe upon us, they differ widely from 
one another. In this, therefore, the greatefl: mu- 
tual forbearance and toleration is due : and though 
the defence of fociety requires that crimes iLould be 
punifhed, from whatever motives they proceed, yet 
a good man will always punifli them with reludance, 
when they evidently proceed from faife notions of 
religious duty. He will never feel againft thofe 
who commit them that indignation which he feels 
againft other criminals, but will rather regret, and 
fometimes even admire their unfortunate firmnefs 
and m.agnanimity, at the very time that he punilhes 


234 Of the Sense Part III. 

their crime. In the tragedy of Mahomet, one of the 
fineft of Mr. Voltaire's, it is well reprefented, what 
ought to be our fentiments for crimes which pro- 
ceed from fuch motives. In that tragedy, two 
young people of different fexes, of the mod inno- 
cent and virtuous difpofitions, and without any 
other weaknefs except what endears them the more 
to us, a mutual fondnefs for one another, are infti- 
gated by the ftrongeft motives of a falfe religion, to 
commit a horrid murder, that fhocks all the princi- 
ples of human nature : a venerable old man, who 
had expreffed the mod tender affeftion for them 
both, for whom, notwithftanding he was the avowed 
enemy of their religion, they had both conceived the 
higheft reverence and efteem, and who was in reality 
their father, though they did not know him to be 
fuch, is pointed out to them as a facrifice which God 
had exprefsly required at their hands, and they are 
commanded to kill him. While they are about 
executing this crime, they are tortured with all the 
agonies which can arife from the flruggle between 
the idea of the indifpenfablenefs of religious duty on 
the one fide, and compafiion, gratitude, reverence 
for the age, and love for the humanity and virtue of 
the perfon whom they are going to deftroy, on the 
other. The reprefentation of this exhibits one of the 
moft interefting, and perhaps the mod inftrudive 
fpedacle that was ever introduced upon any theatre. 
The fenfe of duty, however, at laft prevails over 
all the amiable weaknefles of human naiure. They 
execute the crime impofed upon them j but immedi- 
ately difcover their error, and the fraud which had 
deceived them, and are diftraded with horror, re- 
morfe, and refcntment. Such as are our fentiments 
for the unhappy Seid and Palmira, fuch ought we 


Chap. 4. c/ D u T Y. 235 

to feel for every perfon who is in this manner mifled 
by religion, when we are fure that it is really religion 
which mifleads him, and not the pretence of it, 
which is made a cover to fome of the word of human 

As a perfon may aft wrong by following a wrong 
fenfeof duty, fo nature may fometimes prevail, and 
lead him to adl right in oppofition to it. We cannot 
in this cafe be difpleafed to fee that motive prevail, 
which we think.oughc to prevail, though the perfon 
himfelf is fo weak as to think otherwife. As his 
condu(5l, however, is the effed: of weaknefs, not 
principle, we are far from bellowing upon it any 
thing that approaches to complete approbation. A 
bigotted Roman Catholick, who, during the mafTa- 
ere of St. Bartholomew, had been fo overcome by 
companion, as to lave fom.e unhappy proteftants, 
whom he thought it his duty to deftroy, would not 
feem to be entitled to that high applaufe which we 
fliould have bellowed upon him, had he exerted the 
fame generofity with complete felf-approbation. 
We might be pleafed with the humanity of his tem- 
per, but we fhould dill regard him with a fort of 
pity which is altogether inconfident with the admi- 
ration that is due to perfedl virtue. It is the fame 
cafe with all the other palTions. We do not dillike 
to fee them exert themfeives properly, even when a 
falfe notion of duty would dire6l the perfoa to ref- 
train them. A very devout Quaker, who upon be- 
ing flruck upon one cheek, inilead of turning up 
the other, fhould fo far forget his literal interpreta- 
tion of our Saviour's precept, as to bellow fome 
good difcipline upon the brute that infulted him, 


23^ (y M^ S E N s E, &c. Part III. 

would not be difagreeable to us. We fhould laugh 
and be diverted with his fpirit, and rather like him 
the better for it. But we (hould by no means regard 
him with that refped and efteem which would feem 
due to one who, upon a like occafion, had aded 
properly from a juft fenfe of what was proper to be 
done. No a6lion can properly be called virtuous, 
which is not accompanied with the fentiment of felf- 



Of the Effect of Utility upon the 
fentiment of approbation. 



Of the beauty which the appearance of Utility he- 
flows upon all the productions of art ^ and of the 
extenjive influence of this fpecies of beauty, 

X H A T utility is one of the principal fources 
of beauty has been obferved by every body, who 
has confidered with any attention what confti- 
tutes the nature of beauty. The conveniency of a 
houfe gives pleafure to the fpeflator as well as its 
regularity, and he is as much hurt when he obferves 
the contrary defedl, as when he fees the correfpon- 
dent windows of different forms, or the door not 
placed exadlly in the middle of the building. That 
the fitnefs of any fyflem or machine to produce the 
end for which it was intended, bellows a certain 
propriety and beauty upon the whole, and renders 
the very thought and contemiplation of it agreeable, 
is fo very obvious that nobody has overlooked it. 


z^S ^he Effect Part IV, 

The caufe too, why utility pleafes, has of late 
been afiigned by an ingenious and agreeable philofo- 
pher, who joins the greateft depth of thought to 
the greateft elegance of expreflion, and poflelles the 
fingular and happy talent of treating the abftrufcil 
fubje(5ls not only with the moft perfe6l perfpicuity, 
but with the moft lively eloquence. The utility of 
any objed, according to him, pleafes the mafter by 
perpetually fuggefting to him the pleafure or conve- 
niency which it is fitted to promote. Every time he 
looks at it, he is put in mind of this pleafure ; and 
the objedt in this manner becomes a fource of per- 
petual fatisfadlion and enjoyment. The fpedator 
enters by fympathy into the fentiments of the mafter, 
and neceflarily views the objedt under the fame agree- 
able afpecft. When we vifit the palaces of the great, 
we cannot help conceiving the fatisfadlion we ftiould 
enjoy if we ourfelves were the mafters, and were pof- 
feffed of fo much artful and ingenioufly contrived 
accommodation. A fimilar account is given why 
the appearance of inconveniency Ihould render any 
objed difagreeable both to the owner and to the 

But that this fitnefs, this happy contrivance of 
any production of art, fhould often be more valued, 
than the very end for which it was intended ; and 
that the exadt adjuftment of the means for attaining 
any conveniency or pleafure, fhould frequently be 
more regarded, than that very conveniency or plea- 
fure, in the attainment of which their whole merit 
would feem to confift, has not, fo far as 1 know, 
been yet taken notice of by any body. That this 
however is very frequently the cafe, may be obferved 


Chap. I. c/ U T I L I T y. 239 

in a thoufand inftances, both in the moft frivolous 
and in the moft important concerns of human life. 

When a perfon comes into his chamber, and finds 
the chairs all ftanding in the middle of the room, he 
is angry with his fervant, and rather than fee them 
continue in that diforder, perhaps takes the trouble 
himfelf to fct them all in their places with their backs 
to the wall. The whole propriety of this new fitu- 
ation arifes from its fuperior conveniency in leaving 
the floor free and difengaged. To attain this con- 
veniency he voluntarily puts himfelf to more trouble 
than all he could have fuffered from the want of ii: ; 
fmce nothing was more eafy, than to have fet him- 
felf down upon one of them, which is probably 
what he does when his labour is over. What he 
wanted therefore, it feems, was not fo much this 
conveniency, as that arrangement of things which 
promotes it. Yet it is this conveniency which ulti- 
mately recommends that arrangement, and beftows 
upon it the whole of its propriety and beauty, 

A watch, in the fame manner, that falls behind 
above two minutes in a day, is dcfpifed by one curi- 
ous in watches. He fells it perhaps for a couple of 
guineas, and purchafes another at fifty, which will 
not lofe above a minute in a fortnight. The fole 
ufe of watches however, is to tell us what o'clock 
it is, and to hinder us from breaking any engage- 
ment, or fuffering any other inconveniency by our 
ignorance in that particular point. But the perfon 
fo nice with regard to this machine, will not alv/ays 
- be found cither more fcrupuloufiy pun6lual than 
other men, or more anxioufly concerned upon any 
other account, to know precifely what time of day 


240 Tfje Effect Part IV. 

it is. What interefts him is not io much the attain- 
ment of this piece of knowledge, as the perfedion 
of the machine which ferves to attain it. 

How many people ruin themfelves by laying out 
money on trinkets of frivolous utility ? What 
pleafes thefe lovers of toys is not fo much the utility, 
as the aptnefs of the machines which are fitted to 
promote it. All their pockets are (luffed with little 
conveniencies. They contrive new pockets, un- 
known in the clothes of other people, in order to 
carry a greater number. They walk about loaded 
with a multitude of baubles, in weight and fome- 
times in value not inferior to an ordinary Jew's-box, 
fome of which may fometimes be of fome little 
ufe, but all of which might at all times be very well 
fpared, and of which the whole utility is certainly not 
worth the fatigue of bearing the burden. 

Nor is it only with regard to fuch frivolous ob- 

je6ls that our condudt is influenced by this principle; 

it is often the fecret motive of the moft ferious 

and important purfuits of both private and public 


The poor man's fon, whom Heaven in its anger 
has vifited with ambition, when he begins to look 
around him admires the condition of the rich. He 
finds the cottage of his father too fmall for hi^ ac- 
commodation, and fancies he fhould be lodged more 
at his eafe in a palace. He is difpleafed with being 
obliged to walk a-foot, or to endure the fatigue of 
riding on horfeback. He fees his fuperiors carried 
about in machines, and imagines that in one of 
thefe he could travel with lefs inconveniency. He 


Chap. I. 6/ U T i L I T V. 241 

feels himielf naturally indolent, and willing to ferve 
himfelf with his own hands as little as poflible ; and 
judges, that a numerous retinue of fervants would 
fave him from a great deal of trouble. He thinks 
if he had attained all tliefe, he would fit flill con- 
tentedly, ar.d be quiet, enjoying himielf in the 
thought of the happineis and tranquillity of his fitu- 
ation. He is enchanted with the diltant idea of this 
felicity. It appears in his fancy like the life of fome 
fuperior rank of beings, and in order to arrive at it, 
he devotes himfelf for ever to the purfuit of wealtli 
and greatnefs. To obtain the conveniencies whicK, 
thefe afford, he fubmits in the firft year, nay in the 
firft month of his application, to more fatigue of 
body and more uneafinefs of mind than he could 
have fuffered through the .whole of his life from the 
want of them. He ftudies to diflinguilh himfelf in 
fome laborious profefilon. With the mofl unre- 
lenting indultry he labours night and day to acquire 
r.alents fuperior to all his competitors. He endea- 
vours next to bring thofe talents into public view, 
and with equal affiduity folicits every opportunity of 
employment. For this purpofe he makes h.i3 court 
to all mankind •, he ferves thofe whom he hates, and 
is obfequious to thofe whom he defpifes. Through 
the whole of his life he purfues the idea of a certain 
artificial and elegant repofe which he may never ar- 
rive at, for which he facrifices a real tranquillity 
that is at all times in his power, and which, if in 
the extremity of old age he fhould at lad attain to 
it, he will find to be in no refped preferable to that 
humble fecurity and contentment which he had aban- 
doned for it. It is then, in the laft dregs of life, 
his body waded with toil and difeafes, his mind 
galled and ruffled by the memory of a fhou- 
ld fand 

242 "The Effect Part IV, 

fand injuries and difappointments which he imagines 
he has met with from the injuftice of his enemies, 
or from the perfidy and ingratitude of his friends, 
that he begins at laft to find that wealth and great- 
nefs are mere trinkets of frivolous utility, no more 
adapted for procuring eafe of body or tranquillity 
of mind than the tweezer-cafcs of the lover of toys ; 
and hke them too, more troublefome to the perfon 
who carries them about with him than all the ad- 
vantages they can afford him are commodious. 
There is no other real difference between them, ex- 
cept that the conveniencies of the one are fomevv^hat 
more obfervable than thofe of the other. The pa- 
laces, the gardens, the ec]uipage, the retinue of the 
great are objeds of which the obvious conveniency 
ilrikes every body. They do not require that their 
maders fliould point out to us wherein confifts their 
utility. Of our own accord we readily enter into it, 
and by fympathy enjoy and thereby applaud the fa- 
tisfadion which they are fitted to afford him. But 
the curiofity of a tooth-pick, of an ear-picker, of a 
machine for cutting the nails, or of any other trinket 
of the fame kind, is not fo obvious. Their conveni- 
ence may perhaps be equally great, but it is not fo 
flriking, and we do not fo readily enter into the fa- 
tisfa6lion of the man who poffeffes thrm. They are 
therefore lefs realbnable fubjedts of vanity than the 
magnificence of wealth and greatnefs ; and in this 
confifts the fole advantage of thefe lad. They more 
effedtually gratify that love of diftindion fo natural 
to man. To one who was to live alone in a defolate 
ifland it might be a matter of doubt, perhaps, whe- 
ther a palace, or a colledion of fuch fmall conveni- 
encies as are commonly contained in a tweezer-cafe, 
would contribute moft to his happinefs and enjoy- 

Chap. I. of V T 1 L I T Y. 243 

ment. If he is to live in fociety, indeed, there can 
be no comparifon, becaufe in this, as in all other 
cafes, we conftantly pay more regard to the fenti- 
mencs of the fpedator, than to thole of the perfon 
principally concerned, and confider rather how his 
fituation v/ill appear to other people, than how it 
will appear to himfelf. If we examine, however, 
why the fpedator diftinguifhes with fuch admiration 
the condition of the rich and the great, we fhall find 
that it is not fo much upon account of the fuperior 
cafe or pleafure which they are fuppoiedto enjoy, as 
of the numberlefs artificial and elegant contrivances 
for promoting this eafe or pleafure. He does not 
even imagine that they are really happier than other 
people : but he imagines that they poffefs more 
means of happinefs. And ic is the ingenious and 
artful adjuftment of thofe means to the end for 
which they were intended, that is the principal 
fource of his admiration. But in the languor of ' 
difeafe, and the wearinefs of old age, the pleafures 
^^f the vain and empty diftindions of grcatnefs dif- 
appear. To one, in this fituation, they are no 
longer capable of recommending thofe toillbme pur- 
fuits in which they had formerly engaged him. In 
his heart he curfes ambition, and vainly regrets the 
eafe and the indolence of youth, pleafures which are 
fled for ever, and which he has foolifhly facrificed for 
what, when he has got it, can afl?brd him no real 
fatisfadion. In this miferable afpe6l does greatnefs 
appear to every man when reduced either by fpleen 
or difeafe to obferve with attention his own fituation, 
and to confider what it is that is really wanting to 
his happinefs. Power and riches appear then to be 
what they are, enormous and operofe machines 
contrived to produce a few trifling conveniencics to 

R 2 the 

244 ^'^^ Effect Part IV. 

the body, confiding of fprings the mofl nice and de- 
licate, which muft be kept in order with the mod 
anxious attention, and which in fpite of all our care 
are ready every moment to burfl: into pieces, and to 
cruQi in their ruins their unfortunate pofiefTor. They 
are immenfe fabrics, which it requires the labour of a 
life to raife, which threaten every moment to over- 
whelm the perfon that dwells in them, and which 
while they (land, though they may fave him from fome 
Imaller inconveniencies, can protedl him from none 
of the feverer inclemencies of the feafon. They keep 
ofi'the fummer fhower, not the winter ftorm, but 
leave him always as much, and fometimes more ex- 
pofed than before, to anxiety, to fear, and to for- 
row ; to difeafes, to danger, and to death. 

But though this fplenetic philofophy, which in 
time of ficknefs or low fpirits is familiar to every 
man, thus entirely depreciates thofe great objedls of 
human defire, when in better health and in better 
humour, we never fail to regard them under a 
more agreeable afpedt. Our imagination, which 
in pain and forrow feems to be , confined and 
cooped up within our own perfons, in times of 
eafe and profperity expands itfelf to every thing 
around us. We are then charmed with the beauty 
of that accommodation which reigns in the palaces 
and oeconomy of the great ; and admire how every 
thing is adapted to promote their eafe, to prevent 
their wants, to gratify their wifhes, and to amufe 
and entertain their mod frivolous defires. If we 
confider the real fatisfadlion which all thefe things 
are capable of affording, by itfelf and feparated 
from the beauty of that arrangement which is fitted 
to promote it, it will always appear in the highell 


Chap. I. ^/Utility ^45 

degree contemptible and trifling. But we rarely 
view it in this abftrad: and philofophical light. We 
naturally confound it in our imagination with the 
order, the regular and harmonious movement of the 
fyflem, the machine or ceconomy by means of which 
it is produced. The pleafures of wealth and great- 
nefs, when confidered in this complex view, llrike 
the imagination as fomething grand and beautiful and 
noble, of which the attainment is well worth all the 
toil and and anxiet)^ which we are fo apt to beftow 
upon it. 

And it is well that nature impofes upon us in this 
manner. It is this deception which roufes and keeps 
in continual motion the induilry of mankind. It is 
this which firtl prompted them to cultivate the 
ground, to build houfes, to found cities and com- 
mon-wealths, and to invent and improve all the 
fciences and arts, which ennoble and embellifh hu- 
man life ; which have entirely changed the whole 
face of the globe, have turned the rude forefls of 
nature into agreeable and fertile plains, and made the 
tracklefs and barren ocean a new fund of fubfiftence, 
and the great high road of communication to the 
different nations of the earth. The earth by thefe 
labours of mankind has been obliged to redouble her 
natural fertility, and to maintain a greater multitude 
of inhabitants. It is to no purpofe, that the proud 
and unfeeling landlord views his extenfive fields, 
and without a thought for the wants of his brethren, 
in imagination confumes himfelf the whole harveft 
that grows upon them. The homely and vulgar 
proverb, that the eye is larger than the belly, never 
was more fully verified than with regard to him. 
The capacity of his ftomach bears no proportion to 

R 3 the 

246 Ithe Effect Part IV. 

the immenfity of his defires, and will receive no 
more than that of the meaneft peafant. The reft he 
is obliged to diftribute among thofe, who prepare, 
in the niceft manner, that little which he himfelf 
makes iife of, among thofe who fit up the palace in 
which this little is to be confumed, among thofe 
who provide and keep in order all the different bau- 
bles and trinkets, which are employed in the oecono- 
my of greatnefs; all of whom thus derive from his 
luxury and caprice, that fliare of the neceffaries of 
life, which they would in vain have expedted from 
his humanity or his juftice. The produce of the foil 
maintains at all times nearly that number of inhabi- 
tants, which it is capable of maintaining. The rich 
only fele(5t from the heap what is moft precious and 
agreeable. They confume little more than the poor, 
and in fpite of their natural felfifhnefs and rapacity, 
though they mean only their own conveniency, 
though the fole end which they propofe from the 
labours of all the thoufands whom they employ, be 
the gratification of their own vain and infatiable de- 
fires, they divide with the poor the produce of all 
their improvements. They are led by an invifible 
hand to make nearly the fame diftribution of the ne- 
cefiaries of life, which would have been made, 
had the earth been divided into equal portions among 
all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, 
without knowing it, advance the intereft of the 
fociety, and afford means to the multiplication of 
the fpecies. When Providence divided the earth 
among a few lordly matters, it neither forgot nor 
abandoned thofe who feemed to have been left 
out in the partition. Thefe laft too enjoy their 
fhare of all that it produces. In what conftitutes 


Chap. I. ^/ U't I L r T Y. 247 

the real happinefs of human Jife, they are in no re- 
fpedl inferior to thofe who would feem fo much above 
them. In eafe of body and peace of mind, all the 
different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and 
the beggar, who funs himfelf by the fide of the high- 
way, pofifelTcs that fecurity which kings are fighting 

The fame principle, the fame love of fyftem, the 
fame regard to the beauty of order, of art and con- 
trivance, frequently ferves to recommend thofe infti- 
tutions, which tend to promote the public welfare. 
When a patriot exerts himfelf for the improvement 
of any part of the pubhc police, his condudl does 
not always arife from pure fympathy with the hap- 
pinefs of thofe who are to reap the benefit of it. Ic 
is not commonly from a fellovz-feeling with carriers 
and waggoners that a public-fpirited man encourages 
the mending of high roads. When the legiflature 
eftablifhes premiums and other encouragements to 
advance the linen or woollen manufadlures, its con- 
du6t feldom proceeds from pure fympathy with the 
wearer of cheap or fine cloth, and much lefs from 
that with the manufacturer, or merchant. The per- 
fection of police, the extenfion of trade and manu- 
factures, are noble and magnificent objecfls. The 
contemplation of them pleafes us, and we are inter- 
efled in whatever can tend to advance them. They 
make part of the great fyflem of government, and 
the wheels of the political machine feem to move 
with more harmony and eafe by means of them. 
We take pleafure in beholding the perfedion of fo 
beautiful and grand a fyflem, and we are uncafy till 
we remove any obftruCtion that can in the leaft dif- 
Lurb or encumber the regularity of its motions. All 

R 4 conflitutions 

248 ne Effect Part IV. 

confticutions of government, however, are valued 
only in proportion, as they tend to promote the hap- 
pinefs of thofe who live under them. This is their 
fole ufe and end. From a certain Ipirit of iyftem, 
however, from a certain love of art and contf ivance, 
we fometimes feem to value the means more than the 
end, and to be eager to promote the happinefs of 
our fellow. creatures, rather from a view to pertedb 
and improve a certain beautiful and orderly fyftem, 
than from any immediate fenfe or feeling of what 
they either fuffer or enjoy. There have been men of 
the greateft pubhc fpirit, who have (hewn themfelves 
in other refpedts not very fenfible to the feelings of 
humanity. And on the contrary, there have been 
men of the greateft humanity, who feem to have 
been entirely devoid of public fpirit. Every man 
may find in the circle of his acquaintance inllances 
both of the one kind and the other. Who had ever 
lefs humanity, or more public fpirit, than the cele- 
brated legiflator of Mufcovy ? The focial and well 
natured James the Firfl of Great- Britain feems, on 
the contrary, to have had fcarce any pafTion, either 
for the glory, or the intereft of his country. Would 
you awaken the induftry of the man, who feems al- 
mofl: dead to ambition, it will often be to no purpofe 
todefcribe to him the happinefs of the rich and the 
great ; to tell him that they are generally fheltered 
from the fun and the rain, that they are feldom hun- 
gry, that they are feldom cold, and that they are rare- 
ly expofed to wearinefs, or to want of any kind. 
The mod eloquent exhortation of this kind wiJl have 
little effed: upon him. If you would hope to fuc- 
ceed, you muft defcribe to him the conveniency and 
arrangement of the different apartments in their 
palaces j you mud explain to him the propriety of 

' their 

Chap. I. ^/Utility. 249 

their equipages, and point out to him the number, 
the order, and the different offices of all their atten- 
dants. If any thing is capable of making impreffion 
upon him, this will. Yet all thefe things tend only 
to keep off the fun and the rain, to fave them from 
hunger and cold, from want and wearinefs. In the 
fame manner, if you would implant public virtue in 
the bread of him, who feems heedlefs of the interefb 
of his country, it will often be to no purpofe to tell 
him, what fuperior advantages the fubjedls of a well- 
governed (late enjoy ; that they are better lodged, 
that they are better clothed, that they are better fed, 
Thefe confiderations will commonly make no <^reac 
impreflion. You will be more likely to perfuade, 
if you defcribe the great fyftem of public police 
which procures thefe advantages, if you explain the 
connexions and dependencies of its feveral parts, 
their mutual fubordination to one another, and their 
general fubferviency to the happinefs of the fociety ; 
if you fhow how this fyfteni might be introduced into 
his own country, what it is that hinders it from tak- 
ing place there at prefent, how thofe obftrudlions 
might be removed, and all the feveral wheels of the 
machine of government be made to move with more 
harmony and fmoothnefs, without grating upon one 
another, or mutually retarding one another's moti- 
ons. It is fcarce poffible that a man fhould liften to 
a difcourfe of this kind, and not feel himfelf ani- 
mated to fome degree of public fpirit. He will, at 
lead for the moment, feel fome defire to remove thofe 
obftruclions, and to put into motion fo beautiful and 
fo orderly a machine. Nothing tends fo much to 
promote public fpirit as the (ludy of politics, of the 
feveral fyRems of civil government, their advantages 
and difadvantages, of the conftitution of our own 


250 "The E F F JE c T Part IV. 

country, its fituation, and interefi: with regard to 
foreign nations, its commerce, its defence, the difad- 
vantages it labours under, the dangers to which it 
may be expofed, how to remove the one, and how 
to guard againft the other. Upon this account po- 
litical difquifitions, if juft and reafonable, and prac- 
ticable, are of all the works of fpeculation the mod 
ufeful. Even the weakeftand the word of them are not 
altogether without their utility. They ferve at lead 
to animate the public pafTions of men, and roufe them 
to feek out the means of promoting the happinefs of 
the fociety. 

C H A P. IT. 

Of the beauty which the appearance of utility hejiows 
upon the charaHers and a5ltons of men \ and how far 
the perception of this beauty may be regarded as one 
of the original principles of approbation. 

JL H E charadlers of men, as well as the contri- 
vances of art, or the inftitutions of civil govern- 
ment, may be fitted either to promote or to difturb 
the happinefs both of the individual and of the fo- 
ciety. The prudent, the equitable, the adive, re- 
folute, and fober charadler promifcs profperity and 
fatisfadion, both to the perfon himfelf and to every 
one connected with him. The ralli, the infolent, 
the flothful, effeminate, and voluptuous, on the 
contrary, forebodes ruin to the individual, and mif- 
fortune to all who have any thing to do with him. 
The firft turn of mind has at lead all the beauty 


Chap. II. ^ U T I L I T Y. 251 

which can belong to the moil perfe(5l machine thac 
was ever invented for promoting the molt agreeable 
purpofc: and the fecond ail the deformity of the 
mod awkward and clumfy contrivance. What in- 
ftitution of government could tend lb much to pro- 
mote the happinefs of mankind as the general pre- 
valence of wifdom and virtue ? All government is 
but an imperfecfl remedy for the deficiency of thefe. 
Whatever beauty, therefore, can belong to civil go- 
vernment upon account of its utility, mud in a far 
fuperior degree belong to thefe. On the contrary, 
what civil policy can be fo ruinous and d-ifftruiflive as 
the vices of men ? The fatal effc6ls of bad govern- 
ment arife from nothing, but that it does not fuffici- 
ently guard againfl: themifchiefs which human wick- 
ednefs gives occafion to. 

This beauty and deformity which charadlers ap- 
pear to derive from their ufefulnefs or inconveniency, 
are apt to (Irike, in a peculiar manner, thofe who 
confider, in an abftradl and philofophical light, the 
actions and condudl of mankind. When a philofo- 
pher goes to examine why humanity is approved of, 
or cruelty condemned, he does not alv;ays form to 
himfelf, in a very clear and dill:in6l manner, the con- 
ception of any one particular aftion either of cruelty 
or of humanity, but is commonly contented with the 
vague and indeterminate idba which the general 
names of thofe qualities fuggclt to him. But it is in 
particular inftances only that the propriety or impro- 
priety, the merit or demerit of adlions is very obvious 
and difcernible. It is only when particular exam- 
ples are given that we perceive diftincSlly either the 
concord or difagreement between our own affedions 
and thofe of the agent, or feel a focial gratitude arke 


252 "^^^ Effect Part IV. 

towards him in the one cafe, or a fympathetic re- 
lent ment in the other. When we confider virtue and 
vice in an abflradt and general manner, the qualities 
by which they excite thele leveral fentiments feem in 
a great meafure to difappear, and the fentiments 
themfelves become Icfs obvious and difcernible. On 
the contrary, the happy efFcds of the one and the 
fatal confequences of the other feem then to rife up 
to the view, and as it were to ftand out and diftin- 
guifh themfelves from all the other qualities of 

The fame ingenious and agreeable author who 
firft explained why utility pleafes, has been fo ftruck 
v;ith this view of things, as to refolve our whole ap- 
probation of virtue into a perception of this fpecies 
of beauty which refults from the appearance of uti- 
lity. No qualities of the mind, he obferves, are ap- 
proved of as virtuous, but fuch as are ufeful or 
agreeable either to the perfon himfelf or to others ; 
and no qualities are difapproved of as vicious but 
fuch as have a contrary tendency. And Nature, in- 
deed, feems to have fo happily adjufted our fenti- 
ments of approbation and difapprobation, to the cpn- 
veniency both of the individual and of the fociety, 
that after the ftridleft examination it will be found, I 
believe, that this is univerfally the cafe. But ftill I 
affirm, that it is not the view of this utility or hurt- 
fulnefs which is either the firfl or principal fource of 
our approbation and difapprobation. Thefe fenti- 
ments are no doubt enhanced and enlivened by the 
perception of the beauty or deformity which refults 
from this utility or hurtfulnefs. But ftill, I fay, 
they are originally and efTentially different from this 



Chap. II. ^Utility. 25g 

For firil of all, it feenis impollible that the appro- 
bation of virtue fhould be a fentiment of the fame 
kind with that by which we approve of a convenient 
and well contrived building ; or that v/e fhould have 
no other reafon for praifing a man than that for 
which we commend a cheft of drawers. 

And fecondly, it will be found, upon examinati- 
on, that the ufefulnefs of any difpofuion of mind is 
feldom the fir(l ground of our approbation ^ and that 
the fentiment of approbation always involves in it a 
fenfe of propriety quite dillindt from the perception 
of utility. We may obferve this with regard to all 
the qualities which are aproved of as virtuous, both 
thofe which, according to this fyllem, are originally 
valued as ufeful to ourfelves, as well as thofe which 
are efteemed on account of their ufefulnefs to others. > 

The qualities mod ufeful to ourfelves are, firfl of 
all, fuperior reafon and underdanding, by which 
we are capable of difcerning the remote confequen- 
ces of all our adlions, and of forefeeing the advan- 
tage or detriment which is likely to refult from 
them; and fecondly, felf-command, by which we 
are enabled to abftain from prefent pleafure or to en- 
dure prefent pain, in order to obtain a greater plea- 
fure or to avoid a greater pain in fome future time. 
In the union of thofe two qualities confifts the vir- 
tue of prudence, of all the virtues that which is moil 
ufeful to the individual. 

With regard to the firft of thofe qualities, it has 
been obferved on a former occafion, that fuperior 
reafon and underflanding are originally approved of 


254 ^'^f! E y F E c T Part IV, 

as juft and right and accurate, and not merely as 
ufeful or advantageous. It is in the abftrufer fciences, 
particularly in the higher parts of mathematics, that 
the greatert and moil admired exertions of human 
reafon have been difplayed. But the utility of thofe 
fciences, either to the individual or to the public, is 
not very obvious, and to prove it requires a difcuf- 
fion which is not always very eafily comprehended. 
It was not, therefore, their utility which firft recom- 
mended them to the public admiration. This qua- 
lity was but little infilled upon, till it became necef- 
fary to make fome reply to the reproaches of thofe, 
who, having themfelves no tafte for luch fublime 
difcoveries, endeavoured to depreciate them as ufe- 

That felf'Command, in the fame manner, by which , 
' we reftrain our prefent appetites, in order to gratify 
them more fully upon another occafion, is approved 
of, as much under the arpe6t of propriety, as under 
that of utility. When we a6l in this manner, the 
fentiments which influence our condu6t feem exadtly 
to coincide with thofe of the fpec^ator. The fpedta- 
tor does not feel the felicitations of our prefent appe- 
tites. To him the pleafure which we are to enjoy a 
week hence, or a year hence, is juft as interefting 
as that which we are to enjoy this moment. When 
for the fake of the prefent, therefore, we facrifice 
the future, our conduct appears to him abfurd and 
extravagant in the higheft degree, and he cannot en- 
ter into the principles which influence it. On the 
contrary, when we abftain from prefent pleafure, in 
order to fecure greater pleafure to come, when we 
adl as if the remote objedb interefl:s us as much as 
that which immediately prefies upon the fenfes, as 


Chap. II. ^Utility. 255 

our afFe6lions exadly correfpond with his ov/n, he 
cannot fail to approve of onr behaviour : and as he 
knows from experience, how few are capable of this 
felf-command, he looks upon our condudl with a 
confiderable degree of wonder and admiration. 
Hence arifes that eminent efleem with which all 
men naturally regard a fteady perfeverance in the 
pradice of frugality, induftry, and application, 
though direded to no other purpofe than the acqui- 
fition of fortune. The refolute firmnefs of the per- 
fon who ads in this manner, and in order to obtain 
a great though remote advantage, not only gives up 
all prefent pleafures, but endures the greateft labour 
both of mind and body, neceiTarily commands our 
approbation. That view of his interell and happi- 
nefs which appears to regulate his condudt, exadly 
tallies with the idea which we naturally form of it. 
There is the mod perfed correfpondence between his 
fentiments and our own, and at the fame time, from 
our experience of the common weaknefs of human 
nature, it is a correfpondence which we could not 
reafonably have expeded. We not only approve, 
therefore, but in fome meafure admire his condud, 
and think it worthy of a confiderable degree of ap-^ 
plaufs. It is the confcioufnefs of this merited appro- 
bation and efteem which is alone capable of fupport- 
ing the agent in this tenour of condud. The plea* 
fure which we are to enjoy ten years hence interefts 
us fo little in comparifon with that which we may 
enjoy to-day, the pafPion which the firfl excites, is 
naturally fo weak in comparifon with that violent 
emotion which the fecond is apt to give occafion to, 
that one could never be any balance to the other, un- 
lefs it was fupported by the fenfe of propriety, by 
the confcioufnefs that we merited the erteem and 


256 fhe Effect Part IV. 

approbation of every body, by ading in the one 
way, and that we became the proper objects of their 
contempt and derifion by behaving in the other. 

Humanity, jullice, generofity, and public fpirit, 
are the qualities moil ufefui to others. Wherein 
confifts the propriety of humanity and juftice has 
been explained upon a former occafion, where it 
was (hewn how much our efleem and approbation of 
thofe qualities depended upon the concord between 
the afFedions of the agent and thofe of the fpeda- 

The propriety of generofity and public fpirit is 
founded upon the fame principle vvith that of juftice. 
Generofity is different from humanity. Thofe two 
qualities, which at firft fight feem fo nearly allied, 
do not always belong to the fame perfon. Humani- 
ty is the virtue of a woman, generofity of a man. 
The fair fcx, who have commonly much more ten- 
dernefs than ours, have feldom fo much generofity. 
That women rarely make confiderable donations is 
an obfervation of the civil law*. Humanity confifts 
merely in the exquifite fellow-feeling which the fpec- 
tator entertains with the fentiments of the perfons 
principally concerned, fo as to grieve for their fuf- 
ferings, to refent their injuries, and to rejoice at 
their good fortune. The moft humane adtions re- 
quire no felf-denial, no felf-command, no great ex- 
ertion of the fenfe of propriety. They confift only 
in doing what this exquifite fympathy would of its 
own accord prompt us to do. But it is otherwife 


* Raro muliercs donare folent. 

Chap. 11. (?/ U T I L I T V. 257 

with generofity. We never are generous except 
when in fome refpe6l we prefer fome other perfon to 
ourfelves, and facrifice fome great and important in- 
tereft of ou*r own to an equal intereft of a friend or of 
a fuperior. The man who gives up his pretenfions 
to an office that was the great objedt of his ambition, 
becaufe he imagines that the fervices of another are 
better entitled to it •, the man who expofes his life to 
defend that of his friend, which he judges to be of 
more importance, neither of them, adl from* humani- 
ty, or becaufe they feel more exquifitely what con- 
cerns that other perfon than what concerns themfclves. 
They both confider thofe oppofite interefts not in the 
light in which they naturally appear to themfelves, 
but in that in which they appear to others. To every 
byftander, the fuccefs or prefervation of this other 
perfon may juftly be more interefting than their own ; 
but it cannot be fo to themfelves. When to the in- 
tereft of this other perfon, therefore, they facrifice 
their own, they accommodate themfelves to the fen- • 
timents of the fpedtator, and by an effort of magna- 
nimity adl according to thofe views of things which 
they feel, muft naturally occur to any third perfon. 
The foldier who throws away his life in order to de- 
fend that of his officer, would perhaps be but little 
afFeded by the death of that officer, if it fliould 
happen without any fault of his own ; and a very 
fmall difafter which had befallen himfelf misht ex- 
cite a much more lively forrow. But when he en- 
deavours to adt fo as to deferve applaufe, and to 
make the impartial fped:ator enter into the princi- 
ples of his condudl, he feels, that to every body but 
himfelf, his own life is a trifle compared with that of 
his officer, and that vjien he facrifices the one to the 
other, he ads quite properly and agreeably to what 

S would 

25S llje Effect Part IV. 

would be the natural apprehenfions of every impar- 
tial byilander. 

It is the fame cafe with the greater exertions of 
public fpirit. When a young officer expofes his life 
to acquire fome inconfiderable addition to the domi- 
nions of his fovereign, it is not, becaufe the acqui- 
fition of the new territory is, to himfelf, an obje(5l 
more defireable than the prefervation of his own 
]ife. To him his own life is of infinitely more va- 
lue than the conqueft of a whole kingdom for the 
ftate which he ferves. But when he compares thofe 
two objeds with one another, he does not view them 
in the light in which they naturally appear to him- 
felf, but in that in which they appear to the nation 
he fights for. To them the fuccefs of the war 
is of the higheft importance •, the life of a pri- 
vate perfon of fcarce any confequence. "When he 
puts himfelf in their fituation, he immediately feels 
that he cannot be too prodigal of his blood, if by 
ihedding it, he can promote fo valuable a purpofc. 
In thus thwarting, from a fenfe of duty and proprie- 
ty, the ftrongeil of all natural propenfities, confifts 
the heroifm of his condudt. There is many an ho- 
neft Englifliman, who, in his private ftation, would 
be more ferioufly dilturbed by the lofs of a guinea, 
than by the national lofs of Minorca, who yet, had 
it been in his power to defend that fortrefs, would 
have facrificed his life a thoufand times rather than, 
through his fault, have let it fall into the hands of 
the enemy. When the firft Brutus led forth his 
own fons to a capital punifhment, becaufe they had 
confpired againft the rifing liberty of Rome, he fa- 
crificed what, if he had confulted his own breafl 
only, would appear to be the Wronger to the weaker 


Chap. ir. ^/Utility. 259 

affedion. Brutus ought naturally to have felt much 
more for the death of his own fons, than for all tHfit, 
probably Rome could have fuffered from the want of 
fo great an example. But he viewed them, not with 
the eyes of a father, but with thofe of a Roman citizen. 
He entered fo thoroughly into the fentiments of thk 
lafl: character, that he paid no regard to that tye, 
by which he himfelf was conneded with them -, and 
to a Roman citizen, the fons even of Brutus feemed 
contemptible, when put into the balance with the 
fmalleft intereft of Rome. In thefe and in all other 
cafes of this kind, our admiration is not fo much 
founded upon the utility, as upon the imexpe<^l:ed, 
and on that account the great, the noble, and exalt- 
ed propriety of fuch a<5lions. This utility, when we 
come to view it, beftows upon them, undoubtedly, 
a new beauty, and upon that account Hill further 
recommends them, to our approbation. This beauty, 
however, is chiefly perceived by men of reficdlion 
and fpeculation, and is by no means the quality 
which firft recommends fuch aiSlions to the natural 
fentiments of the bulk of mankind. 

It is to be obferved, that fo far as the fentimcnt 
of approbation arifes from the perception of this 
beauty of utility, it has no reference of any kind to 
the fentiments of others. If it was poffible, there- 
fore, that a perfon fhould grow up to manhood with- 
out any communication with fociety, his own adions 
might, notwithftanding, be agreeable or difagreeable 
to him on account of their tendency to his happinefs 
or difad vantage. He might perceive a beauty of 
this kind in prudence, temperance, and good con- 
duct, and a deformity in the oppofite behaviour : 
He might view his own temper and charadlcr with 

S 2 that 

'z6o 'The. Effect, ^c. Part IV„ 

that fort of fatisfadlion with which we confider a well 
contrived machine, in the one cafe; or with that 
fort of diftafte and diffatisfadtion with which we regard 
a very awkward and clumfy contrivance, in the 
other. As thefe perceptions, however, are merely a 
matter of talle, and have all the feeblcnefs and deli- 
cacy of that fpecies of perceptions, upon the juftnefs 
of which what is properly called tafte is founded, 
they probably would not be much attended to by one 
in his folitary and miferable condition. Even though 
they (liould occur to him, they would by no means have 
the fame effedt upon him, antecedent to his connexi- 
on with fociety, which they would have in confe- 
quence of that connexion. He would not be caft- 
down with inward fhame at the thought of this de- 
formity ♦, nor would he be elevated with fecret tri- 
umph of mind from the confcioufnefs of the contrary 
beauty. He would not exult from the notion of de- 
ferving reward in the one cafe, nor tremble from the 
fufpicion of meriting punifliment in the other. All 
fuch fentiments fuppofe the idea of fome other being, 
who is the natural judge of the perfon that feels 
them ; and it is only by fympathy with the decifions 
of this arbiter of his condudl, that he can conceive, 
either the triumph of felf-applaufe, or the fhame of 



Of the Influence of Custom and 
Fashion upon the fentiments of moral 
approbation and difapprobation. 



Of the influence of cujlom and fajhion upon our noti- 
ons of beauty and deformity, 

JL H E R E are other principles befides tliofe al- 
ready enumerated, which have a confiderable influ- 
ence upon the moral fentiments of mankind, and are 
the chief caufes of the many irregular and difcordanc 
opinions which prevail in different ages and nations 
concerning what is blameable or praife- worthy. 
Thcfe principles are cuftom and fadion, principles 
which extend their dominion over our judgments 
concerning beauty of every kind. 

When two objedls have frequently been fcen toge- 
ther, the imagination acquires a habit of paiTing 
cafily from the one to the other. If the firft appear, 
we lay our account that the fecond is to follow. Of 

S 3 their 

262 Of the Influence Part V. 

their ovvn accord they putjjs in mind of one another, 
and the attention glides eafily along them. Though, 
independent of cuftom, there fliould be no real 
beauty in their union, yet when cuftom has thus 
conneded them together, we feel an impropriety in 
their reparation. The one we think is awkward 
when it appears without its ufual companion. We 
mifs fomething which we expedted to find, and the 
habitual arrangement of our ideas is difturbed by 
the dil^ippointment. A fult of clothes, for example, 
ieems to want fomething if they are without the moft 
infignificant ornament which ufually accompanies 
them, and we find a meannefs or awkwardnefs in the 
abfence even of a haunch button. When there is 
any natural propriety in the union, cuftcm increafes 
our fenfe of it, and makes a different arrangement 
appear fbill moredifagreeable than it would otherwife 
feem to be. Thofe who have been accuftomed to 
fee things in a good tafte, are more difguiled by 
whatever is clumfy or awkward. Where the con- 
junction is improper, cullom either diminifhes, or 
takes avv^ay altogether, our kv\k of the impropriety. 
Thole who have been accuftomed to flovenly diforder 
iofe all fenfe of neatnefs or elegance. The modes of 
iurniture or drefs which feem ridiculous to ftrangers, 
give no offence to the people who are ufed to them. 

Fafhion is different from cuftom, or rather is a 
particular fpecies of it. That is not the fafliion which 
every body wears, but which thofe wear who are of 
a high rank, or chara6ler. The graceful, the eafy, 
and commanding manners of the great, joined to the 
uiual richnefs and magnificence of their drefs, give 
a grace to the very form which they happen to beftow 


Chap. I. ^Custom. 263 

upon ir. As long as they coniinue to ufe this form, 
it is connected in our imaginations with the idea of 
fomething that is genteel and magnificent, and though 
in itfelf it fhould be indifferent, it feems, on account 
of this relation, to have fomething about it that is 
genteel and magnificent too. As foon as they drop 
it, it iofes all the grace, which it had appeared to pof- 
fefs before, and being now ufed only by the inferior 
ranks of people, feems to have fomething of their 
meannefs and awkwardnefs. 

Drefs and furniture are allowed by all the world 
to be entirely under the dominion of cufiom and 
fafhion. The influence of thofe principles, however, 
is by no means confined to fo narrow a fphere, but 
extends itfelf to whatever is in any refpe(5t the objedt 
of tafle, to mufic, to poetry, to architedure. The 
modes of drefs and furniture are continually chang- 
ing, and that fafhion appearing ridiculous to-day 
which was admired five years ago, we are experi- 
mentally convinced that it owed, iis vogue chiefly or 
entirely to cuftom and fafliion. Clothes and furni- 
ture are not made of very durable materials, A well 
fancied coat is done in a twelve-month, and cannot 
continue longer to propagate, as the fafliiun, that 
form according to which it was made. The modes 
of furniture change lefs rapidly than thofe of drefs ; 
becaufe furniture is commonly more durable. In 
five or fix years, however, it generally undergoes an 
entire revolution, and every man in his own time fees 
the fafliion in this refped change many difi^erent ways. 
The productions of the other arts are much more lafl:- 
ing, and, when happily imagined, may continue to 
propagate the fafliion of their make for a much longer 
time. A well contrived building may endure many 

S 4 centuries : 

164 Of the Influence Part V. 

centuries : a beautiful air may be delivered down by 
a fort of tradition, through many fuccefiive genera- 
tions : a v^ell written poem may laft as long as the 
world ; and all of them continue for ages together, 
to give the vogue to that particular ftyle, to that par- 
ticular tafte or manner, according to which each of 
them was compofed. Few men 'have an opportunity 
of feeing in their own times the fafliion in any of 
i\\t{t arts change very confiderably. Few men have 
fo much experience and acquaintance with the differ- 
ent modes which have obtained in remote ages and 
nations, as to be thoroughly reconciled to them, or to 
judge with impartiality between them, and what takes 
place in their own age and country. Few men there- 
fore are willing to allow that cuftom or fafhion have 
much influence upon their judgments concerning 
what is beautiful, or otherwife, in the produdlions 
of any of thole arts ; but imagine, that all the rules, 
which they think ought to be obferved in each of 
them, are founded upon reafon and nature, not upon 
habit or prejudice. A very little attention, however, 
may convince them of the contrary, and fatisfy them, 
that the influence of cuftom and fafhion over drefr. 
and furniture, is not more abfolute than over'archi- 
tedure, poetry, and mufic. 

Can any reafon, for example, be alTigned why the 
Doric capital fliould be appropriated to a pillar, 
whole height is equal to eight diameters ; the Ionic 
volute to one of nine ; and the Corinthian foliage to 
one of ten ? The propriety of each of thofe appro- 
priations can be founded upon nothing but habit and 
cuftom. The eye having been ufed to fee a particu- 
lar proportion conne6led with a particular ornamentj 
would be offended if they were not joined together. 


Chap L (?/ C u s T • hi. 265 

Each of the five orders has its peculiar ornaments, 
which cannot be changed for any other, without 
giving offence to all thofe who know any thing of 
the rules of architedture. According to Ibme archi- 
te6ts, . indeed, fuch is the exquifue judgment Vvrith 
virhich the ancients have aOigned to each order its pro- 
per ornaments, that no others can be found which 
are equally fuitable. It feems, however, a little diffi- 
cult to be conceived that thefe forms, though, no 
doubt, extremely agreeable, Iliould be the only forms 
which can fuit thofe proportions, or that there fhould 
not be five hundred others which, antecedent to 
eftablillied cuftom, would have fitted them equally 
well. When cudom, however, has eftablifhed par- 
ticular rules of building, provided they are not ab- 
folutely unreafonable, it is abfurd to think of alter- 
ing them for others which are only equally good, or 
even for others which, in point of elegance and 
beauty, have naturally fome little advantage over 
them. A man would be ridiculous who fliould ap- 
pear in public with a fuit of clothes quite different 
from thofe which are commonly worn, though the 
new drefs fhould in itfelf be ever fo graceful or con- 
venient. And there feems to be an abfurdity of the 
fame kind in ornamenting a houfe after a quite dif- 
ferent manner from that which cuftom and fafhion 
have prefcribed ; though the new ornaments fhould 
in themfelves be fomewhat fuperior to the common 

According to the ancient rhetoricians, a certain 
meafure or verfe was by nature appropriated to each 
particular fpecies of writing, as being naturally ex- 
prefTive of that charader, fentiment, or pailion, 
' which 

266 Of the Influence Part V. 

which ought to predominate in it. One verfe, they 
faid, was fit for grave and another for gay works, 
which could nor, they thought, be interchanged 
without the greateft impropriety. The experience 
of modern times, however, feems to contradict this 
principle, though in itfelf it would appear to be 
extremely probable. What is the burlefque verfe in 
Englilh is the heroic verfe in French. The traoe- 
dies of Racine and the Henriad of Voltaire, are in 
the fame verfe with, 

'Thus faid to my lady the knight full of care. 

The burlefque verfe in French, on the contrary, is 
pretty much the fame with the heroic verfe of ten 
fyllables in Englidi. Cuftom has made the one na- 
tion aflbciate the ideas of gravity, fublimity, and 
ferioufnefs, to that meafure which the other has 
connedled with whatever is gay, flippant, and ludi- 
crous. Nothing would appear more abfurd in Eng- 
lifh than a tragedy written in the Alexandrine verfes 
of the French ; or in French, than a work of the 
fame kind in verfes of ten fyllables. 

An eminent artift will bring about a confiderable 
change in the eftablifhed modes of each of thofe arts, 
and introduce a new faQiion of writing, mufic, or 
architedure. A^s the drefs of an agreeable man of 
high rank recommends itfelf, and how peculiar and 
fantaftical foever, comes foon to be admired and 
imitated ; fo the excellencies of an eminent mafter 
recommend his peculiarities, and his manner becomes 
the fafhionable (tyle in the art which he pradlifes. 
The tafte of the Italians in mufic and architeflure, 
has, within thefe fifty years> undergone a confiderable 


Chap. I. of C us T o M. 267 

change, from imitating the peculiarities oF Ibmc 
eminent mafters in each of thoie arts. Seneca is ac- 
cufed by Quintilian of having corrupted the tafte of 
the Romans, and of having introduced a frivolous 
prettinefs in \Xit room of majellic rcafon and mafcu- 
line eloquence. Saliuft and Tacitus have by others 
been charged with the fame accusation, tho' in a dif- 
ferent manner. They gave reputation, it is pre- 
tended, to a ftyle, which though in t!ie higheil de- 
gree concife, elegant, exprefiive, and even poetical, 
wanted, however, eafe, fimplicity, and nature, and 
was evidently the production of the moft laboured 
and ftudied affeCLation. How many great qualities 
mud that writer pOiTefs who can thus render his very 
faults agreeable? After the praife of refining the 
taftc of a nation, the higheft eulogy, perhaps, which 
can be bellowed upon any author is to fay, that he 
corrupted it. In our own language, Mr. Pope and 
Dr. Swift have each of them introduced a manner 
different from what was pradlifed before, into all 
works that are written m rhyme, the one in long 
verfes, the other in lliort. The quaintnefs of Butler 
has given place to the plamneis of Swift. The 
rambling freedom of Dryden, and the correal: but 
often tedious and profaic languor of Addifon, are no 
longer the obje(5ls of imitation, but all long verfes 
are now written after the manner of the nervous pre- 
cifion of Mr. Pope. 

Neither is It only over the productions of [he arts, 
that cuftom and fafliion exert their dominion. They 
influence our judgments, in the fame manner, with 
regard to the beauty of natural objefls. What vari- 
ous and oppofite forms are deemed beautiful in dif- 
ferent fpecies of things .^ The proportions which are 


^68 Of the Influence Part V. 

admired in one animal, are altogether different from 
thofe which are ePceemed in another. Every clafs of 
things has its own peculiar conformation, which is 
approved of, and has a beauty of its own, diftind: 
from that of every other fpecies. It is upon this 
account that a learned Jefuit, father Buffier, has 
determined that the beauty of every objedt confifts in 
that form and colour, which is mod ufual among 
things of that particular fort to which it belongs. 
Thus, in the human form, the beauty of each 
feature lies in a certain middle equally remov- 
ed from a variety of other forms that are ugly. 
A beautiful nofe, for example, is one that is neither 
very long, nor very Ihort, neither very (Iraight, nor 
very crooked, but a fort of middle among all thefe 
extremes, and lefs different from any one of them, 
than all of them are from one another. It is the 
form which Nature feems to have aimed at in them 
all, which, however, fhe deviates from in a great 
variety of ways, and very feldom hits exadly •, but 
to which all thofe deviations ftill bear a very ftrong 
refcmblance. When a number of drawings are 
made after one pattern, though they may all mifs it 
in fome refpedls, yet they will all refemble it more 
than they refemble one another •, the general charac- 
ter of the pattern will run through then: all ; the mod 
fingular and odd will be thofe which are mod wide 
of it ; and though very few will copy it exadly, yet 
the moil accurate delineations will bear a greater re- 
femblance to the moft carelefs, than the carelefs 
ones will bear to one another. In the fame manner, 
in each fpecies of creatures, what is moft beautiful 
bears the ftrongeft chara6ters of the general fabric of 
the fpecies, and has the ftrongeft refemblance to the 
greater part of the individuals v/ith which it is 


Chap. I. c/ C u s T o M. 269 

clafTed. Monfters. on the contrary, or what is per- 
fectly deformed, are always mod fingular and odd, 
and have the lead refemblance to the generality of 
that fpecies to which they belong. And thus the 
beauty of each fpecies, though in one fenfe the rareft 
of all things, becaufe few individuals hit this middle 
form exadlly, yet in another, is the mod common, 
becaufe all the deviations from it refemble it more 
than they refemble one another. The mod cudom- 
ary form, therefore, is in each fpecies of things, 
according to him, the mod beautiful. And hence it 
is that a certain pradlice and experience in contem- 
plating each fpecies of objedls is requifite, before 
we can judge of its beauty, or know wherein the 
middle and mod ufual form confids. The niced 
judgment concerning the beauty of the human fpe- 
cies, will not help us to judge of that of flowers, or 
horfes, or any other fpecies of things. It is for the fame 
reafon that in different climates and where different 
cudoms and ways of living take place, as the gene- 
rality of any fpecies receives a different conformation 
from thofe circumdances, lb different ideas of its 
beauty prevail. The beauty of a Mooridi is not ex- 
a6lly the fame with that of an Englifh horfe. What 
diff^erent ideas are formed in diff^erent nations con- 
cerning the beauty of the humian fhape and counte- 
ance.'* A fair complexion is a (hocking deformity 
upon the coad of Guinea. Thick lips and a flat 
nofe are a beauty. In fome nations long ears that hang 
down upon the flioulders are the objedls of univer- 
fal admiration. In China if a lady's foot is fo large 
as to be fit to walk upon, flie is regarded as a mon- 
fter of uglinefs. Some of the favage nations in 
North- America tie four boards round the heads of 
their children, and thus fqueeze them, while the 


Zjo Of the Influence Part V. 

bones are tender and griftly, into a form that is ai- 
med perfedly fquare. Europeans are aftoniilied at 
the ablurd barbarity of this pradlice, to which fome 
miffionaries have imputed the lingular ftupidity o/ 
thofe nations among whom it prevails. But when 
they condemn thofe favages, they do not reflect 
that the ladies in Europe had, till within thefe very 
few years, been endeavouring, for near a century 
part:, to fqueeze the beautiful roundnels of their na- 
tural fbape into a fquare form of the fame kind. 
And that notv/iihflanding the many diftortions and 
difeafes which this pradice was known to occafion, 
Guftom had rendered it agreeable among fome of i\\t 
mofi: civilized nations, which, perhaps, the world 
ever beheld. 

Such is the fyflem of this learned and ingenious 
father, concerning the nature of beauty ; of which 
the whole charm, according to him, would thus 
feem to arife from its falling in with the habits which 
'cuftom had imprefled upon the imagination, with 
regard to things of each particular kind. I cannot, 
however, be induced to believe tliat our fenfe even 
of external beauty is founded altogether on cuftom. 
The utility of any form, its fitnefs for the ufeful 
purpofes for which it was intended, evidently re- 
commends it, and renders it agreeable to us inde- 
pendent of cuftom. Certain colours are more agree- 
able than others, and give more delight to the eye 
the firft time it ever beholds them. A fmooth fur- 
face is more agreeable than a rough one. Variety is 
more pleafmg than a tedious undiverfified uniformity. 
Conneded variety, in which each new appearance 
feems to be introduced by what went before it, and in 
which all the adjoining parrs feem to have fome na- 

Chap. II. of C V s T o M> 271 

tural relation to one another, is more agreeable than 
a disjointed and diforderly airembiage of unconned:- 
ed objedls. But though I cannon admit that cuftom 
is the Ible principle of beauty, yet I can fo far allow 
the truth of this ingenious fyftem as to grant, that 
there is fcarce any one external form fo beautiful as 
to pleafe, if quite contrary to cuflom and unlike 
whatever we have been ufed to in that particular fpe- 
cies of things : or fo deformed as not to be agreeable, 
if cuftom uniformly fupports it, and habituates us 
to fee it in every fingle individual of the kind. 


Of the influence of cujlom cind fafJoion upon moral 


OiNCE our fentiments concerning beauty of 
every kind are fo much influenced by cuftom and 
faftiion, it cannot be expedled, that thofe, concern- 
ing the beauty of condudt, ftiould be entirely ex- 
empted from the dominion of thofe principles. Their 
influence here, however, fecms to be much lefs than 
it is every where elfe. There is, perhaps, no form 
of external objeds, how abfurd and fantaftical fo- 
cver, to which cuftom will not reconcile us, or 
which fafhion will not render even agreeable. But 
the characters and condud of a Nero, or a Claudius, 
are what no cuftom will ever reconcile us to, what 
no faftiion will ever render agreeable ; but the one 
will always be the objed of dread and hatred ; the 
other of fcorn and derifion. The principles of the 
imagination, upon which our fenfe of beauty de- 

272 Of the I N F L u E N.c E Part V. 

pends, are of a very nice and delicate nature, and 
may eafily be altered by habit and education : but 
the lentiments of moral approbation and difappro- 
bation, are founded on the ilrongeft and moil vigo- 
rous paflions of human nature •, and though they 
may be fomewhac warpt, cannot be entirely per- 

But though the influence of cuftom and fafhion, 
upon moral fentiments, is not altogether fo great, 
it is however perfectly fimilar to what it is every 
where elfe. When cuftom and fafhion coincide 
with the natural principles of right and wrong, they 
heighten the delicacy of our fentiments, and increafe 
our abhorrence for every thing which approaches to 
evil. Thofe who have been educated in what is 
really good company, not in what is commonly 
called fuch, who have been accuftomed to fee no- 
thing in the perfons whom they efteemed and lived 
with, but juftice, modefty, humanity, and good 
order -, are more fhocked with whatever feems to be 
inconfiftent with the rules which thofe virtues pre- 
fcribe. Thofe, on the contrary, who have had the 
misfortune to be brought up amidft violence, licen- 
tioufnefs, falfehood, and injuftice •, lofe, though not 
all fenfe of the impropriety of fuch condudt, yet all 
fenfe of its dreadful enormity, or of the vengeance 
and punifhment due to it. They have been famili- 
arized with it from their infancy, cuftom has ren- 
dered it habitual to them, and they are very apt to 
regard it as, what is called the way of the world, 
fomething which either may, or muft be prac- 
tifed, to hinder us from being the dupes of our 
own integrity. 


Chap. U. of Custom. 273 

Fadiion too will fometimes give reputation to 3 
certain degree of diforder, and on the contrary dif- 
countenance qualities which deferve efteem. In the 
reign of Charles II. a degree of licentioufnefs was 
deemed the charadteriftic of a liberal education. It 
was connected, according to the notions of thofe 
times, with generofity, fmcerity, magnanimity, loy- 
alty, and proved that the perfon who adled in this 
manner, was a gentleman, and not a puritan ; fe- 
verity of manners, and regularity of condud, on 
the other hand, were altogether unfafliionable, and 
were connefled, in the imagination of that age, with 
cant, cunning, hypocrify, and low manners. To 
fuperficial minds^ the vices of the great feem at all 
times agreeable. They connedl them^ not only with 
the fplendour of fortune, but with many fuperiour 
virtues, which they afcribe to their fuperiors; with 
the fpirit of freedom and independency, with frankr 
nefs, generofity, humanity, and politenefs. The 
virtues of the inferior ranks of people, on the con- 
trary, their parfimonious frugality, their painful in- 
duftry, and rigid adherence to rules, feem to them 
mean and difagreeable. They conned: them, both 
with the meannefs of the ftation to which thofe quali-.. 
ties commonly belong, and with many great vices, 
which, they fuppofe, ufually accompany them •, fuch 
as an abjedl, cowardly, ill-natured, lying, pilfering 

The obje6ls with which men in the different pro- 
fcflions and (tares of life are converfanr, being very 
different, and habituating them to very different paf- 
fions, naturally form in them very different charac- 
ters and manners. We exped in each rank and pro- 

T ftflion. 

274 Of the Influence Part V. 

fefTion, a degree of thofe manners, which, experience 
has taught us, belong to it. But as in each fpecies 
of things, we are particularly pleafed with the middle 
conformation, which in every part and feature agrees 
moft exadly with the general (landard which nature 
feems to have eftablifhed for things of that kind \ fo 
in each rank, or, it I may fay fo, in each fpecies of 
men, we are particularly pleafed, if they have nei- 
ther too much, nor too little of the character which 
ufually accompanies their particular condition and 
fituation. A man, we fay, fliould look like his 
trade and profefTion ; yet the pedantry of every pro- 
fefTion is difagreeable. The different periods of life 
have, for the fame reafon, different manners affigned 
to them. V/e expedl in old age, that gravity and 
fedatenefs v/hich its infirmities, its long experiencCj 
and its worn-out feqfibility feem to render both natu- 
ral and refpedlable ; and we lay our account to find 
in youth that fenfibiJity, that gaiety and fprightly vi- 
vacity which experience teaches us to expedl from 
the lively imprefTions that all interefting objedls are 
apt to make upon the tender and unpradliled fenfes 
of that early period of life. Each of thofe two ages, 
however, may eafily have too much of thefe peculi- 
arities which belong to it. The flirting levity of 
youth, and the immoveable infenfibility of old age, 
are equally difagreeable. The young, according to 
the common faying, are mofh agreeable when in 
their behaviour there is fomething of the manners of 
the old, and the old, when they retain fomething of 
the gaiety of the young. Either of them, however, 
may eafily have too much of the manners of the 
other. The extreme coldnefs, and dull formality, 
which are pardoned in old age, make youth ridicu- 
lous. The levity, the careleffnef^, and the vanity, 


Chap. IJ. ^/Custom. 275 

which are indulged in youth, render old age con-» 

The peculiar charafler and manners which we are 
Jed by cuilom to appropriate to each rank and pro- 
felllon, have fometimes perhaps a propriety indepen- 
dent of cudom ; and are what we fhould approve of 
for their own fakes, if we took into confideration all 
the different circumftances which naturally affe6l 
thofe in each different ftate of life. The propriety 
of a perfon's behaviour, depends not upon its fuitable- 
nefs to any one circumftance of his fituation, but 
to all the circumftances, which, when we bring his 
cafe home to ourfelves we feel, iliould naturally call 
upon his attention. If he appears to be fo much oc- 
cupied by any one of them, as entirely to negled: the 
reft, we difapprove of his conduct, as fomething 
which we cannot entirely go along with, becaufe not 
•properly adjufted to all the circumftances of his fitu- 
ation : yet, perhaps, the emotion he expreffes for 
the objed: which principally interefts him, does not 
exceed what we fhould entirely fympathize.with, and 
approve of, in one whofe attention was not required 
by any other thing. A parent in private life might, 
upon the lofs of an only fon, exprefs without blame, 
a degree of grief and tendernefs, which would be un- 
pardonable in a general at the head of an army, when 
glory, and the public fafety demanded fo great a part 
ofr his attention. As different objedls ought, upon 
common occafions, to occupy the attention of men 
of different profeffions, fo different paffions ought, 
naturally to become habitual to them ; and when we 
bring home to ourfelves their fituation in this parti- 
cular refpedl, we muft be fenfible, that every occur- 
rence (hould naturally affedt them more or iefs, ac- 

T 2. cording 

276 Of the Influence Part V,. 

cording as the emotion which it excites, coincides or 
difagrees with the fixt habit and tennper of their 
minds. We cannot expe6l the fame fenlibility to the 
gay plcafures and amufements of life in a clergyman 
which we lay our account with in an officer. The 
man whofe peculiar occupation it is to keep the 
world in mind of that awful futurity which awaits 
them, who is to announce what may be the fatal con- 
fcquences of every deviation from the rules of duty, 
and who is himfelf to fet the example of the moft 
exa6l conformity, feems to be the meflenger of ti- 
dirlgs, which cannot, in propriety, be delivered either 
with levity or indifference. His mind is fuppofed to 
be continually occupied with v;hat is too grand and 
folemn, to leave any room for the impreflions of 
thofe frivolous obje61:s, which fill up the attention 
of the difTipated and the gay. We readily feel there- 
fore, that, independent of cuftom, there is a propri- 
ety in the manners which cuftom has allotted to this 
profelTion ; and that nothing can be more fuitable to 
.the charader of a clergyman, than that grave, that 
auftere and abftracled feverity, which we are habitu- 
ated to expedt in his behaviour. Thefe refiedions 
are fo very obvious, that there is fcarce any man fo 
inconfiderate, as not, at fome time, to have made 
them, and to have accounted to himfelf in this man- 
ner for his approbation of the ufual charader of 
this order. 

The foundation of the cuftomary charadler of 
fome other profefTions is not {6 obvious, and our ap- 
probation of it is founded entirely in habit, without 
being either confirmed, or enlivened by any refieclions 
of this kind. We are led by cuftom, for example, 
to annex the charaderof gaiety, levity, and fprightly 


Chap. IL of C u 3 T o m. 277 

freedom, as well as of fome degreeof diffipation, to 
the military profeffion : yer, if we were to confider 
what mood or tone of temper would be mod fuita- 
ble to this fituation, we ihouid be apt. to determine, 
perhaps, that the mod ferioiis and thoughtful turn of 
mind, would bed become thole whofe lives are con- 
tinually expofed to uncommon danger; and who 
fhould therefore be, maore conftantly occupied with 
the thoughts of death and its confequences than other 
men. It is this very circumftance, however, which 
is not improbably the occafion why the contrary turn 
of mind prevails fo much among men of this pro- 
felHon. It requires fo great an effort to conquer the 
^fear of death, when we furvey it with fleadinefs and 
attention, that thofe who are conftantly expofed to ic, 
find it eafier to turn away their thoughts from it al- 
together, to wrap themfelves up in carelels fecurity 
and indifference, and to plunge themfelves, for this 
purpofe, into every fort of amufcmenc and diilipa- 
tion. A camp is not the element of a thoughtful 
or a melancholy man : perfons of that caft, indeed, 
are often abundantly determined, and are capable, 
by a great effort, of going on with inflexible refolu- 
tion to the moft unavoidable death. But to be ex- 
pofed to continual, though lefs imminent danger, to 
be obliged to exert, for a long time, a degree of this 
effort, exhaufts and depreffes the mind, and renders 
it incapable of ali happinefs and enjoyment. The 
gay and carelefs, who have occafion to make no ef- 
fort at all, who fairly refolve never to look before 
them, but to lofe in continual pleafures and amufe- 
ments, all anxiety about their fituation, more eafily 
fupport fuch circumftances. Whenever, by any 
peculiar circumftances, an ofiicer has no reafon to 
lay his account with being expofed to any uncom- 

T 9 mon 

^7^ Of the Influence Part V. 

mon danger, he is very apt to lofe the gaiety and dif- 
iipated thoughtlefsnels of his charader. The cap- 
tain of a city guard is commonly as fober, careful, 
and penurious an animal as the reft of his fellow- citi- 
zens. A long peace is, for the fame reafon, very apt 
to diminifh the difference between the civil and the 
military charader. The ordinary fituation, howe- 
ver, of men of this profeflion, renders gaiety, and a 
degree of difilpation, fo much their ufual character ; 
and cuftom has, in our imagination, fo ftrongly con- 
neded this chara6ter with this ftate of life, that v/e 
are very apt to defpife any man, whofe peculiar hu- 
mour or fituation, renders him incapable of acquiring 
it. We laugh at the grave and careful faCes of a city 
guard, which, fo little refemble thofe of their profef- 
fion. They themfelves feem often to be afiiamed of 
the regularity of their own manners, and, not to be 
out of the fafliion of their trade, are fond of affeding 
that levity, which is by no means natural to them. 
Whatever is the deportment which we have been ac- 
cnftomed to fee in a refpedable order of men, it 
comes to be fo affociated in our imagination with that 
order, that whenever we fee the one, we lay our ac- 
count that we are to meet with the other, and when 
difappointed, mifs fomething which we expeded to 
find. We are embarrafTed, and put to a ftand, and 
know not how to addrefs ourfelves to a charader, 
which plainly affcds to be of a different fpecies 
from thofe with which we fhould have been difpofcd 
to clafs it. 

The different fituations of different ages and 
countries, are apt, in the fame manner, to give dif- 
ferent characters to the generality of thofe who live 
in them, and their fentiments concerning the parti- 

Chap. II. ^ C u s T o M. 279 

cular degree of each quality, that is either blameable, 
or praife-worthy, vary according to that degree, 
which is iifual in their own country, and in their 
own times. That degree of politenefs, which would 
be highly efteemed, perhaps, would be thought ef- 
feminate adulation, in Ruflia, would be regarded as 
rudenefs and barbarifm at the court of France. 
That degree of order and frugality, which, in a 
Polilh nobleman, would be confidered as exceffive 
parfimony, would be regarded as extravagance in a 
citizen of Amfterdam. Every age and country look 
upon that degree of each quality, v^hich is commonly 
to be met with in thofe who are efteemed among 
themfelves, as the golden mean of that particular 
talent or virtue. And as this varies, according as 
their different circumftances render different qualities 
more or lefs habitual to them, their fentirpents con- 
cerning the exadl propriety of charader and behavi- 
our vary accordingly. 

Among civilized nations, the virtues which are 
founded upon humanity, are more cultivated than 
thofe which are founded upon felf-denial and the 
command of the paffions. Among rude and bar- 
barous nations, it is quite otherwise, the virtues of 
felf-dcnial are more cultivated than thofe of huma- 
nity. The general fecurity and happinefs which 
prevail in ages of civility and politenefs afford little 
exercife to the contempt of danger, to patience in 
enduring labour, hunger, and pain. Poverty may 
eafily be avoided, and the contempt of it therefore^ 
almoft ceafes to be a virtue. The abftinence from 
pleafure, becomes lefs neceffary, and the mind 
is more at liberty to unbend itfelf, and to indulge 

T 4 its 

28p Of the Influence Part V, 

its natural inclinations in all thofe particular re- 
aped s. 

Among ravages and barbarians it is quite other- 
wife. Every lavage undergoes a fort of Spartan 
difcipline, and by the neceffity of his fituation is in- 
ured to every fort of hardfhip. He is in continual 
danger : He is often expofed to the greatefi: extremi- 
ties of hunger, and frequently dies of pure want. 
His circumdances not only habituate him to every 
fort of diftrcfs, but teach hirn to give way to none of 
the pafTions which that difbrefs is apt to excite. He 
can expe(5l from his countrymen no fympathy or in- 
dulgence for fuch vveaknefs. Before we can feel 
much for others, we muft in fome meafure be at 
eafe ourfelves. If our own mifery pinches us very 
feverely, we have no leifure to attend to that of our 
neighbour : And all lavages are too much occupied 
with their own wants and neceffities, to give much 
attention to thofe of another perfon. A favage, 
therefore, whatever be the nature of his diftrefs, ex- 
perts no fympathy from thofe about him, and dif- 
Gains, upon that account, to expofe himfelf, by aU 
lowing the leaft weaknefs to efcape him. His paf- 
fions, how furious and violent foev^er, are never per- 
mitted to difturb the ferenity of his countenance or 
the compofure of his conduct and behaviour. The 
favages in North America, we are told, alTume upon 
all occafions the greatefc indifference, and would 
think themfelves degraded if they fliould ever ap- 
pear in any refped- to be overcome, either by love, 
or grief, or refentment. Their magnanimity and 
felf-command, in this refped, are almoft beyond the 
conception of Europeans. In a country in which 
all men are upon a level, with regard to rank and 

for tune. 

Chap. II. of C V s T o M. 281 

fortune, it might be expefted that the mutual incli- 
nations of the two parties fliould be the only thing 
confidered in marriao;es, and fhould be indulged 
without any fort of controul. This, however, is the 
country in which all marriages, without exception, 
are made up by the parents, and in which a young 
man would think himlelf difgraced for ever, if he 
fliewed the lead preference of one woman above an- 
other, or did not exprel's the mod complete indiffer- 
ence, both about the time when, and the perfon to 
whom he was married. The weaknefs of love, 
which is fo much indulged in ages of humanity and 
politenefs, is regarded among favages as the miOft un- 
pardonable effeminacy. Even after the marriage the 
two parties feem to be afhamed of a connexion v/hich 
is founded upon fo fordid a necefiicy. They do not 
live together. They fee one another by Health only. 
They both continue to dwell in the houfes of their re- 
fpedive fathers, and the open cohabitation of the 
two fexes, which is permitted v/ithout blame in all 
other countries, is here confidered as the moft inde- 
cent and unmanly fenfuality. Nor is it only over 
this agreeable paiTion that they exert this abfolute 
felf-command. They often bear in the fight of all 
their countrymen with injuries, reproach, and the 
grofiefi: infults with the appearance of the greatett in- 
fenfibility, and without expreffing the fmaileft: re- 
fentment. When a favage is made prifoner of war, 
and receives, as is ufual, the fentence of death from 
Iiis conquerors, he hears it without exprefTing any 
emotion, and afterv/ards fubmits to the moft dread- 
tul torments, without ever bemoaning himfelf, or 
difcovering any other pafTion but contempt of his 
enemies. While he is hung by the fhoulders over a 
llow fire, he derides his tormentors, and tells them 


2Hz Of the Influence Part V, 

with how much more ingenuity, he himfelf had tor- 
mented fuch of their countrymen as had fallen into 
his hands. After he has been fcorched and burnt, 
and lacerated in all the moft tender and fenfible parts 
of his body for feveral hours together, he is often al- 
lowed, in order to prolong his mifery, a fhort refpite, 
and is taken down from the (lake : he employs this 
interval in talking upon all indifferent fubjedls, in- 
quires after the news of the country, and feems in- 
different about nothing but his own fituation. The 
Ipedators exprefs the fame infenfibility •, the fight of 
fo horrible an obje<fl feems to make no impreffion 
upon them -, they fcarce look at the prifoner, except 
when they lend a hand to torment him. At other 
times they fmoke tobacco, and amufe themfelves 
with any common objed, as if no fuch matter was 
going on. Every favage is faid to prepare himfelf 
from his earlieft youth for this dreadful end. He 
compofes, for this purpofe, what they call the fong of 
death, a fong which he is to fing when he has fallen 
into the hands of his enemies, and is expiring under 
the tortures which they infii6t upon him. It confilts 
of infults upon his tormentors, and expreffes the 
higheft contempt of death and pain. He fings this 
fong upon all extraordinary occafions, when he goes 
out to war, when he meets his enen^ies in the field, 
or v/henever he has a mind to fhow that he has farni- 
liarifed his imagination to the mod dreadful misfor- 
tunes, and that no human event can daunt his refo- 
lution, or alter liis purpofe. The fame contempt of 
death and torture prevails among all other favage na- 
tions. There is not a negro from the coaft of Africa 
who does nor, in this refped, poffefs a degree of 
magnanimity which the foul of his fordid mafler is 


Chap. II. <?/ C u s T o M. 283 

too often fcarce capable of conceiving. Fortune 
never exerted more cruelly her empire over mankind, 
than when flie fubjedled thofe nations of heroes to 
the refufe of the jails of Europe, to wretches who 
poflefs the virtues neither of the countries which 
they come from,' nor of thofe which they go to, and 
whofe levity, brutality, and bafenefs, fo juftly expofe 
them to the contempt of the vanquilhed. 

This heroic and unconquerable firmnefs, which 
the cuftom and education of his country demand of 
every favage, is not required of thofe who are brought 
up to live in civilized focieties. If thefe laft complain 
when they are in pain, if they grieve when they are 
in diftrefs, if they allow themfelves either to be 
overcome by love, or to be difcompofed by anger, 
they are eafily pardoned. Such weaknefles are not 
apprehended to afFed theeiTential parts of their cha- 
rader. As long as they do not allow themfelves to 
be tranfported to do any thing contrary to juftice or 
humanity, they lofe but little reputation, though the 
ferenity of their countenance or the compofure of 
their difcourfe and behaviour fhould be fomewhac 
ruffled and difturbed. A humane and polifhed peo- 
ple, who have more fenfibility to the paflions of 
others, can more readily enter into an animated and 
pafTionate behaviour, and can more eafily pardon 
fome little excefs. The perfon principally concerned 
is fenfible of this ; and being afTured of the equity 
of his judges, indulges himfelf in fbronger exprcflions 
of pafllon, and is lefs afraid of expofing himfelf to 
their contempt by the violence of his emotions. We 
can venture to exprefs more emotion in the prefence 
of a friend than in that of a ftranger, becaufe we ex- 
ped more indulgence from the one than from tiie 


284 0/ /y^^ 1 N F L u E N c E Part V. 

other. And in the fame manner the rules of decorum 
among civilized nations, admit of a more animated 
behaviour, than is approved of among barbarians. 
The fird converfe together with the opennefs of 
friends ; the fecond with the referve of ftrangers. 
The emotion and vivacity with which the French 
and the Italians, the tv/o mod poliflied nations upon 
the continent, exprefs themfelves on occafions that 
are at ail interefling, furprife at firft thofe ftrangers 
who happen to be travelling aiPiOng them, and who, 
'laving been educated among a people of duller fenfi- 
bility, cannot enter into this paffionate behaviour, 
of which they have never feen any example in their 
own country. A young French nobleman will weep 
in the prefence of the whole court upon being refufed 
a regiment. An Italian, fays the abbot Du Bos, ex- 
prefies more emotion on being condemned in a fine 
of twenty fbillings, than an Englifhman on receiving 
the fentence of death. Cicero, in the times of the 
highcft Roman politcnefs, could, v/ithout degrading 
himfelf, weep with all the bitternefs of forrow in the 
fight of the whole fenate and the whole people; as 
it is evident he m.uft have done in the end of almoft 
every oration. The orators of the earlier and ruder 
ages of Rome could not probably, confilient with 
the manners of the times, have expreffbd themfelves 
with fo nvjch emotion. It v;ould have been re- 
garded, I fuppofe, as a violation of nature and pro- 
priety in the Scipios. in the Leliufes, and in the el- 
der Cato, to have expofed fo much tendcrnefs to the 
view of the public. Thofe ancient warriors could 
exprefs themlelves, wiih order, gravity, and good 
judgment •, but are faid to have been ftrangers to 
that fublime and pallionate eloquence which was firft 
introduced into Rome, not many years before the 


Chap. II. ^/ C u s T o M. 2S5 

birth of Cicero, by the two Gracchi, by CrafTas, and 
by Suipitius. This animated eloquence, which has 
been long pradlifed, with or without fuccefs, both in 
France and Italy, is but jufl beginning to be intro- 
duced into England. So wide is the difference be- 
tween the degrees of felf- command which are re- 
quired in civilized and in barbarous nations, and by 
fuch different ftandards do they judge of the pro- 
priety of behaviour. 

This difference gives occafion to many others that 
are not lefs effential. A polifhed people being ac- 
cuftomed to give way, in fome meafure, to the move- 
ments of nature, become frank, open, and fincere, 
Barbarians, on the contrary, being obliged to fmo- 
ther and conceal the appearance of every paffion, 
neceffarily acquire the habits of falfehood and dif- 
fimulation. It is obferved by all thofe who have 
been converfant with favage nations, whether in 
Afia, Africa, or America, that they are all equallv 
impenetrable, and that, when they have a mind to 
conceal the truth, no examination is capable of 
drawing it from them. They cannot be trepanned 
by the mod artful queftions. The torture itfelf is 
incapable of making them confefs any thing which 
they have no mind to tell. The paffions of a fa- 
vage too, though they never exprefs themifelves by 
any outward emotion, but lie concealed in the bread 
of the fufferer, are, notwithftanding, all mounted to 
the higheft pitch of fury. Though he feldom (bows 
any fymptoms of anger, yet his vengeance, when he 
comiCs to give way to it, is always fanguinary and 
dreadful. The leaf!: affront drives him to defpair. 
His countenance and difcourfe indeed are ftill fober 
and compofed, and exprefs nothing but the mod per- 


285 0/ //^^ 1 N F L u E N c E Part V, 

fe6l tranquillity of mind : But his a6lions are often 
the moft furious and violent. Among the North- 
Americans it is not uncommon for perfons of the 
tenderefl age and more fearful fex to drown them- 
felves upon receiving only a flight reprimand from 
their mothers, and this too without exprefling any 
pafTions or faying any thing, except, you Jhallno lon- 
ger have a daughter. In civilized nations the paf- 
fions of men are not commonly fo furious or fo def- 
perate. They are often clamorous and noify, but 
are fcldom very hurtful \ and feem frequently to aim 
at no other fatisfailion, but that of convincing the 
fpedator, that they are in the right to be fo much 
moved, and of procuring his fympathy and appro- 

All thefe efFe6ls of cuftom and fafhion, however, 
upon the moral fentiments of mankind, are inconfi- 
derable in comparifon of thofe which they giveocca- 
fion to in fome other cafes \ and it is not concerning 
the general ftyle of charader and behaviour, that 
thofe principles produce the greateft perverfion of 
judgment, but concerning the propriety or impro- 
priety of particular ufages. 

The different manners which cuftom teaches us to 
approve of in the different profeilions and ftates of 
life, do not concern things of the greateft importance. 
We expedl truth and juftice from an old man as well 
as from a young, from a clergyman as well as from 
an officer •, and it is in matters of fmall moment only 
that we look for the diflinguifliing marks of their re- 
fpe6live characters. With regard to thefe too, there 
is often fome unobferved circumftance which, if it 
was attended to, would fhow us, that, independent 


Chap. n. ^/Custom. 287 

of cuflom, there was a propriety in the charadler 
which cuftom had taught us to allot to each profei- 
fion. We cannot complain, therefore, in this cafe, 
that the perverfion of natural fentiment is very great. 
Though the manners of different nations require dif- 
ferent degrees of the fame quality, in the character 
which they think worthy of efteem, yet the word 
that can be faid to happen even here, is that the du- 
ties of one virtue are fometimes extended fo as to en- 
croach a little upon the precindls of fome other. 
The ruftic hofpitality that is in fafhion among the 
Poles encroaches, perhaps, a little upon ceconomy 
and good order ; and the frugality that is efteemed 
in Holland, upon generofity and good-fellowfliip. 
The hardinefs demanded of favages diminifhes their 
humanity ; and, perhaps, the delicate fenfibility re- 
quired in civilized nations fometimes deftroys the 
mafculine firmnefs of the character. In ireneral, the 
llyle of manners which takes place in any nation, 
may commonly upon the whole be faid to be that 
which is mod fuitable to its fituation. Hardinefs is 
the charafler moft fuitable to the circumltances of a 
favage ; fenfibility to thofe of one who lives in a very 
civilized fociqty. Even here, therefore, we cannot 
complain that the moral fentiments of men are very 
grofsly perverted. 

It is not therefore in the general (lyle of condu6l 
or behaviour that cuftom authorizes the wideft depar- 
ture from what is the natural propriety of adion. 
With regard to particular ufages its influence is often 
much more deftruftive of good morals, and it is ca- 
pable of eflabliihing, as lawful and blamelefs, par- 
tieuhr adions, which fhock the plaineft principles 
of right and wrong. 


288 Of the Influence Part V. 

Can there be greater barbarity, for example, than 
to hurt an infant ? Its helpleflhefs, its innocence, 
its amiablenefs, call forth the compafTion even of 
an enemy, and not to fpare that tender age is re- 
garded as the moit furious effort of an enraged and 
cruel conqueror. V/hat then fliould we imagine 
mufi; be the heart of a parent who could injure that 
v/eaknefs which even a furious enemy is afraid to vio- 
late ? Yen the expoficion, that is, the murder of new- 
born infants, was a practice allowed of in almoft all 
the ftates of Greece, even among the polite and civi- 
lized Athenians-, and whenever the circumltances 
of the parent rendered it inconvenient to bring up the 
child, to abandon it to hunger, or to wild beads, 
was regarded without blame or cenfure. This prac- 
tice had probably begun in times of the motl favage 
barbarity. The imaginations of men had been iirll 
made familiar with it in that earlieft period of focie- 
ty, and the uniform continuance of the cullom had 
jiindered them afterwards from perceiving its enor- 
mity. We find, at this day, that this prac^liice pre- 
vails among; all favage nations : and in that rudell 
and loweil: Ifate of lociety it is undoubtedly more 
pardonable than in any other. The extreme indi- 
gence of a favage is often fuch that he himftlF is fre- 
quently expofed to the greateft extremity of hunger, 
he often dies of pure want, and it is frequently im- 
pofiible for him to fupport both himfelf and his 
child. We cannot wonder, therefore, that in this 
cafe he fhould abandon it. One who in flying from 
an enemy, whom it was impoflible to refill, fliould' 
throw down his infant, becaufe it retarded his flight, 
would furely be excufeable ; fince, by attempting to 
fave it, he could only hope for the confolation of 


Chap. IT. of C V s T o M. 289 

dying with it. That in this ftate of fociety, there- 
fore, a parent fhould be allowed to judge whether he 
can bring up his child, ought not to furprife us fo 
greatly. In the latter ages of Greece, however, the 
fame thing was permitted from views of remote in- 
tereft or conveniency, which could by no means ex- 
cufe ir. Uninterrupted cuftom had by this time fo 
thoroughly authorized the pradice, that not only the 
loofe maxims of the world tolerated this barbarous 
prerogative, but even the do6lrine of philofophers, 
which ought to have been more juft and accurate, 
was led away by the eftabiilhed cuftom, and upon 
this, as upon many other occafions, inftead of 
cenfuring, fupportcd the horrible abufe, by far- 
fetched confiderations of public utility. Ariftotle 
talks of it as of what the magiftrate ought upon 
many occafions to encourage. The humane Plato 
is of the fame opinion, and, with all that love 
of mankind which feems to animate all his writ- 
ings, no where marks this pradice with difappro- 
bation. When cuftom can give fanflion to fo dread- 
ful a violation of humanity, we may well imagine 
that there is fcarce any particular pradlice fo grofs 
which it cannot authorize. Such a thing, we hear 
men every day faying, is commonly done, and they 
fecm to think this a fufficient apology for what, 
in itfelf, is the moft unjuft and unreafonable con- 

There is an obvious reafon why cuftom fhould 
never pervert our fentiments with regard to the 
general ftyle and charader of condud and behavi- 
our, in the fame degree as with regard to the pro- 
priety or unlawfulnefs of particular ufages. There 

U never 

290 Of the Influence, &c. Part V. 

never can be any fuch cuftom. No fociety could 
fubfift a moment, in which the ufual drain of mens 
condudb and behaviour was of a piece with the hor- 
rible pradice I juft now mentioned. 



Of Syftems of Moral Philosophy. 



Of the queftions which ought to be examined in a 
theory of moral fentiments. 

JL F we examine the mofl celebrated and remarka- 
ble of the different theories which have been given 
concerning the nature and origin of our moral fenti- 
ments, we fhall find that almoft all of them coincide 
with fome part or other of that which I have been 
endeavouring to give an account of; and that if 
every thing which has already been faid be fully con- 
fidered, we fhall be at no lofs to explain what was 
the view or afpedl of nature which led each particu- 
lar author to form his particular fyftem. From fome 
one or other of thofe principles which I have been 
endeavouring to unfold, every fyflem of morality 
that ever had any reputation in the world has, per- 
haps, ultimately been derived. As they are all of 
them, in this refpeft, founded upon natural princi- 
ples, they are all of them in fome mcafure in the 
right. But as many of them are derived from a par- 

U % tial 

292 0/ S y s T E M s Part VL 

tial and imperfed view of nature, there are many of 
them too in fome refpeds in the wrong. 

In treating of the principles of morals there are 
two queilions to be confidered. Firll, wherein does 
virtue confift ? Or what is the tone of temper, and 
tenour of condu6l, which conftitutes the excellent 
and praife-worthy charadler, the charadler which is 
the natural objedl of efteem, honour, and approba- 
tion ? and fecondly, by what power or faculty in the 
mind is it, that this charader, whatever it be, is re- 
commended to us ? Or in other words, how and by 
what means does it come to pafs, that the mind 
prefers one tenour of condufl to another, denomi- 
nates the one right and the other wrong ♦, confiders 
the one as the object of approbation, honour, and 
reward, and the other of blame, cenfure, and pu- 
nifhment ? 

We examine the firft queftion when we confider 
whether virtue confifts in benevolence, as Dr. Hutche- 
fon imagines ; or in adling fuitably to the different 
relations we ftand in, as Dr. Clarke fuppofes -, or in 
the wife and prudent purfuit of our own real and fo- 
iid happinefs, as has been the opinion of others. 

We examine the fecond queftion, when we con- 
fider, whether the virtuous charadter, whatever it 
confifts in, be recommended to us by felf-love, 
which makes us perceive that this character, both in 
ourfelves and others, tends moft to promote our own 
private intereft ^ or by reafon, which points out to us 
the difference between one charadler and another, in 
the fame manner as it does that between truth and 
falfehood j or by a peculiar power of perception, 


Se(5t. J. <?/* Moral Philosophy. 293 

called a moral fenfe, which this virtuous charadler 
gratifies and pleafes, as the contrary difgufts and 
difpleafes it ; or laft of all, by fome other principle 
in human nature, fuch as a modification of fympa- 
thy, or the like. 

I fhall begin with confidering the fyftems which 
have been formed concerning the firft of thefe quef- 
tions, and fhall proceed afterwards to examine thofe 
concerning the fecond. 

U a SEC- 

294 0/ Systems Part VI, 


Of the different accounts which have been given 
of the nature of virtue. 


JL H E different accounts which have been given 
of the nature of virtue, or of the temper of mind 
which conftitutes the excellent and praife-worthy 
character, may be reduced to three different claffes. 
According to fome, the virtuous temper of mind 
does not confift in an}' one fpecies of affedlions, but 
in the proper government and direftion of all our af- 
fedlions, which may be either virtuous or vicious ac- 
cording to the objedts which they purfue, and the 
degree of vehemence with which they purfue them. 
According to thefe authors, therefore, virtue con° 
fifts in propriety. 

According to others, virtue confifts In the judici- 
ous purfuit of our own private jntereft and happi- 
nefs, or in the proper government and direction of 
thofe felfifh affedtions which aim folely at this end. 
In the opinion of thefe authors, therefore, virtue 
confifts in prudence. 

Another fet of authors make virtue confifl in 
thofe affedtions only which aim at the happinefs of 
others, not in thofe which aim at our own. Ac» 
cording to them, therefore, difinterefted benevolence 


Se6t. II. ^jT Moral Philosophy. 295 

is the only motive which can ftamp upon any adion 
the charader of virtue. 

The charadler of virtue, it is evident, muft either 
be afcribed indifferently to all our affedlions, when 
under proper government and diredtion •, or it mufl 
be confined to fome one clafs or divifion of them. 
The great divifion of our affedions is into the felfilh 
and the benevolent. If the character of virtue, 
therefore, cannot be afcribed indifferently to all our 
affed:ions, when under proper government and di- 
redlion, it muft be confined either to thofe which aim 
dire6lly at our own private happinefs, or to thofe which 
aim diredly at that of others. If virtue, therefore, 
does not confift in propriety, it muft confift either in 
prudence or in benevolence. Befides thefe three, it 
is fcarce poffible to imagine that any other account 
can be given of the nature of virtue. I fhall endea- 
vour to fhew hereafter how all the other accounts, 
which are feemingly different from any of thefe, 
coincide at bottom with fome one or other of them« 

C H A P. I. 

Of thofe fyftems which make virtue confift in pro- 


C CORDING to Plato, to Ariftotle, and to 
Zeno, virtue confifts in the propriety of conduft, or 
in the fuitablenefs of the affedlion from which we ad: 
to the objed which excites it. 

I. In the fyftem of Plato * the foul is confidered 
as fomething like a little ftate or republic, compofed 
of three different faculties or orders, 

U 4 ^ The 

* $ee Plato de Rep^ lib. iv. 

29^ Of S Y s T E M s Part VI. 

The firfl is the judging faculty, the faculty which 
determines not only what are the proper means for at- 
taining any end, but alfo what ends are fit to be pur- 
fued, and what degree of relative value we ought to 
put upon each. This faculty Plato called, as it is 
very properly called reafon, and confidered it as 
v/hat had a right to be (jhe governing principle of 
the whole. Under this appellation, it is evident, he 
comprehended not only that faculty by which we 
judge of truth and falfehood, but that by v/hich we 
judge of the propriety or impropriety of defires and 

The different pafTions and appetites, the natural 
fubjedb of this ruling principle, but v/hich are fo apt 
to rebel againft their matter, he reduced to two dif- 
ferent clafies or orders. The firft confifled of thole 
paiTions, which are founded in pride and refentment, 
or in what the fchoolmen called the irafcible part of 
fhe fouU ambition, animofity, the love of honour, 
and the dread of fhame, the defire of vidlory, fu- 
perioricy, and revenge •, all thofe pafilons, in Ihort, 
which are fuppofed either to rife from, or to denote 
what, by a metaphor in our language, we commonly 
call fpirit or natural fire. The fecond confided of 
thofe paffions which are founded in the love of plea- 
fure, or in what the fchoolmen called the concupif- 
cible part of the foul. It comprehended all the appe- 
tites of the body, the love of eafe and fecurity, and 
of all fenfual gratifications. 

It rarely happens that we break in upon that plan 
of condudl, which the governing principle prefcribes, 
and which in all our cool hours we had laid down to 
ourfelves as what was mod proper for us to purfue, 


Se(5l. II. c/ Moral Philosophy. 297 

but when prompted by one or other of thofe two 
different fets of paffions -, either by ungovernable 
ambition and refentment, or by the importunate fo- 
licitations of prefent eafe and pleafure. But though 
thefe two orders of pafTions are fo apt to miflead us, 
they are ftill confidered as neceffary parts of human 
nature: the firft having been given to defend us 
againft injuries, to affert our rank and dignity in the 
world, to make us aim at what is noble and ho- 
nourable, and to make us diitinguiili thole who adt 
in the fame manner ^ the fecond to provide for the 
fupport and neceffities of the body. 

In the ftrength, acutenefs, and perfeftion of the 
governing principle was placed the eilential virtue of 
prudence, which, accordmg to Plato, confifted in a 
jull and clear difcernnnent, founded upon general 
and fcientific ideas, of the ends which were proper to 
be piirfued, and of the means which were proper for 
attaining them. 

When the firft fet of paffions, thofe of the irafcible 
part of the foul, had tiiat degree of fbrength and 
firmnefs, which enabled them, under the diredion 
of reafon, to defpife all dangers in the purfuit of 
what was honourable and noble ; it conftituted the 
virtue of fortitude and magnanimity. This order of 
paffions, according to this lyftem, was of a more ge- 
nerous and noble nature than the other. They were 
confidered upon many occafions as the auxiliaries of 
reafon, to check and reftrain the inferior and brutal 
appetites. We are often angry at ourfelves, it was 
obferved, we often become the objeds of our own re- 
fentment and indignation, when the love of pleafure 
prompts to do what we difapprove of*, and the irafci- 

298 of Systems Part VI. 

ble part of our nature is in this manner called in to 
aiTift the rational againil the concupifcible. 

When all thcfe three different parts of our nature 
were in perfect concord with one another, when neither 
the irafcible nor concupifcible paiTions ever aimed at 
any gratification which reafon did not approve of, 
and when reafon never commanded any thing, but 
what thefe of their own accord were willing to per- 
form -, this happy compofure, this perfedl and com- 
plete harmony of foul, conftituted that virtue which 
in their language is expreffed by a word which we 
commonly tranflate temperance, but which might 
more properly be tranflated good temper, or fobriety 
and moderation of mind. 

Juftice, the laft and greateft of the four cardinal 
virtues, took place, according to this fyftem, when 
each of thofe three faculties of the mind confined it- 
felf to its proper ofHce, without attempting to en- 
croach upon that of any other ; when reafon directed 
and paflion obeyed, and when each paffion perform- 
ed its proper duty, and exerted itfelf towards its 
proper objedt eaiily and without reludtance, and with 
that degree of force and energy, which was fuitable 
to the value of what it purfueji. In this confifted 
that complete virtue, that perfedt propriety of con- 
dud, v/hich Plato, after fome of the ancient Pythago- 
reans, denominated Juftice. 

The word, it is to be obferved, which exprefles juf- 
tice in the Greek langjuagre, has fcveral different mean- 
ings j and as the correfpondent word in ail other lan- 
guages, fo far as 1 know, has the fame, there muft be 
fome natural aiiinity among thofe various fignificationSo 


Sedl. II. of Moral Philosophy. 299 

In onefenfe we are laid to do juftice to our neigh- 
bour when we abftain from doing him any pofitive 
harm, and do not directly hurt him, either in his 
perfon, or in his eilate, or in his reputation. This 
is that juftice which I have treated of above, the ob- 
fervance of which may be extorted by force, and the 
violation of which expofes to punifliment. In ano- 
ther fenfewe are faid not to do juftice to our neigh- 
bour unlefs we conceive for him all that love, refpedl 
and eileem, which his charadlcr, his fituation, and 
his connexion with ourfclves, render fuitable and 
proper for us to feel, and unlefs we ad according- 
ly. It is in this fenfe that we are faid to do injullice 
to a man of merit who is connected with us, tho' 
we abftain from hurting him in every refpe<S:, if we 
do not exert ourfelves to ferve him and to place hini 
in that fituation in which the impartial fpedlator 
would be pleafed to fee him. The firft fenfe of the 
word coincides with what Ariftotle and the School- 
men call commutative juftice, and with what Gro- 
tius calls the juftitia expktrix, which confifts in ab- 
ftaining from what is another's, and in doing volun- 
tarily whatever we can with propriety be forced to 
do. The fecond fenfe of the word coincides with 
what fome have called diftributive juftice*, and with 
the juftina attrihutrix of Grotius, which conftfts in 
proper beneficence, in the becoming ufe of what is 
our own, and in the applying it to thofe purpoies 
either of charity or generofity, to which it is mofl: 
fuitable, in our fituation, that it Ihould be applied. 
In thisfenfejuftice comprehends all the fecial virtues. 


* The diftributlve juftice of Ariftotle is fomewhat different. 
It confifts in the proper diftribution of rewards from the public 
Hock of a community. See Ariftotle Ethic. Nic, I. 5. c. 2. 

30O 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL 

There is yet another fenfe in which the word jufticc 
is fometimes taken, ftill more extenfive than either 
of the former, though very much a-kin to the laft % 
and which runs too, fo far as I know, through all 
languages. It is in this laft fenfe that we are faid to 
beunjuft, when we do not feem to value any parti- 
cular objedl with that degree of efteem, or to purfue 
it with that degree of ardour which to the impartial 
fpedlator it may appear to deferve or to be naturally 
fitted for exciting. Thus we are faid to do injuftice 
to a poem or a pidure, when we do not admire them 
enough, and we are faid to do them more thanjuftice 
when we admire them too much. In the fame man- 
ner we are faid to do injuftice to ourfelves when we 
appear not to give fufficient attention to any particu- 
lar object of felf-intereft. In this laft fenfe, what is 
called juftice means the fame thing with exadl and 
perfect propriety of conduct and behaviour, and com- 
prehends in it, not only the offices of both commu- 
tative and diftributive juftice, but of every other vir- 
tue, of prudence, of fortitude, of temperance. It is in 
this laft fenfe that Plato evidendy underftands what 
he calls juftice, and which, therefore, according to 
him, comprehends in it the perfed:ion of every fort 
of virtue. 

Such is the account given by Plato of the nature 
of virtue, or of that temper of mind which is the 
proper objed of praife and approbation. It confifts, 
according to him, in that ftate of mind in which eve- 
ry faculty confines itfelf within its proper fphere 
without encroaching upon that of any other, and' 
performs its proper office with that precife degree of 
ftrength and vigour which belongs to it. His ac- 
count, it is evident, coincides in every refpedl with 


Seft. IT. of Moral Philosophy. 301 

what we have faid above concerning the propriety of 

II. Virtue, according to Ariftotle *, confifts in 
the habit of mediocrity according to right reafon. 
Every particular virtue, according to him, lies in a 
kind of middle between twooppofite vices, of which 
the one offends from being too much, the other from 
being too little affedled by a particular fpecies of ob- 
jeds. Thus the virtue of fortitude or courage lies 
in the middle between the oppofite vices of cowardice 
and of prefumptuous rafhnefs, of which the one 
offends from being too much, and the other from be- 
ing too little affedted by the objedts of fear. Thus 
too the virtue of frugality lies in a middle between 
avarice and profuHon, of which the one confifts in an 
excefs, the other in a defedl of the proper attention 
to the objects of felf interefb. Magnanimity, in the 
fame manner, lies in a middle between the excefs of 
arrogance and tlie defe6t of pufillanimity, of which 
the one confifts in too extravagant, the other in too 
weak a fentiment of our own worth and dignity. It 
is unneceffary to obferve that this account of virtue 
correfponds too pretty exadly with what has been 
faid above concerning the propriety and impropriety 
of condud:. 

According to Ariftotle f, indeed, virtue did not 
fo much confift in thofe moderate and right affecli- 
ons, as in the habit of this moderation. In order to 
underftand this, it is to be obferved, that virtue may 
be confidered either as the quality of an adtion, or 


* See Ariftoile Eihic. Nic. 1. 2. c. 5. et feq. et 1. 3. c. 5, at 

t See Ariflotle Ethic. Nic. lib, ii. ch. i 2. 3. and 4. 

302 0/ S Y s T EMS Part VI. 

as the quality of a perfon. Confidered as the qua- 
lity of an ad:ioii, it confifts, even according to Arif- 
totle, in the reafonable moderation of the affedlion 
from which the adtion proceeds, whether this difpo- 
lition be habitual to the perlon or not. Confidered 
as the quality of a perfon, it confifts in the habit of 
this reafonable moderation, in its having become the 
cuitomary and ufual difpofition of the mind. Thus 
the ad:ion which proceeds from an occafional fit of 
generofity is undoubtedly a generous adlion, but the 
man who performs it, is not neceflarily a generous 
perfon, becaufe it may be the fingle adlion of the 
kind which he ever performed. The motive and 
difpofition of heart, from which this adion was per- 
formed, may have been quite jull and proper : but 
as this happy mood feems to have been the effedl 
rather of accidental humour than of any thing fteady 
or permanent in the charader, it can refledl no great 
honour on the performer. When we denominate a 
charadter generous or charitable, or virtuous in any 
refpedl, we mean to fignify that the difpofition ex- 
prefiled by each of thofe appellations is the ufual 
and cuftomary difpofinon of the perfon. But fingle 
actions of any kind, how proper and fuitable foever, 
are of little confequence to fhow that this is the cafe. 
If a fingle adtion was fufficient to ftamp the charadler 
of any virtue upon the perfon who performed it, the 
moft worthlefs of mankind might lay claim to all the 
virtues ; fince there is no man who has not, upon 
fome occafions, adled with prudence, juftice, tem- 
perance, and fortitude. But though fingle adlions, 
how laudable foever, refled very little praife upon 
the perfon who performs them, a fingle vicious adion 
performed by one whofe condudt is ufually very re- 
gular, greatly dimini(hes and fometimes deftroys al- 

Sed. 11. tf/ Moral Philosophy. 303 

together our opinion of his virtue. A fingle a6lion 
of this kind fufficiently Ihows that his habits are not 
perfed, and that he is lefs to be depended upon, 
than, from the ufual train of his behaviour, vi^e 
might have been apt to imagine. 

Ariflotle too *, when he made virtue to confifl: in 
pradlical habits, had it probably in his view to op- 
pofe the dodlrine of Plato, who feems to have been 
of opinion that juft fentiments and reafon able judg- 
ments concerning what was fit to be done or to be 
avoided, were alone fufficient to conftitute the moft 
perfedt virtue. Virtue, according to Plato, might 
be confidered as a fpecies of fcience, and no man, he 
thought, could fee clearly and demonftratively what 
was right and what was wrong, and not adl accord- 
ingly. PafTion might make us adt contrary to doubt- 
ful and uncertain opinions, not to plain and evident 
judgments. Ariftotle, on the contrary, was of opi- 
nion, that no conviction of the underftanding was 
capable of getting the better of inveterate habits, 
and that good morals arofe not from knowledge but 
from adtion. 

III. According to Zeno f, the founder of the 
ftoical doctrine, every animal was by nature recom- 
mended to its own care, and was endowed with the 
principle of felf-love, that it might endeavour to 
preferve, not only its exiftence, but all the different 
parts of its nature, in the bell and moft perfedl ftate 
of which they were capable. 


* See Ariftotle Mag. Mor. lib. i. ch. i. 
t See Cicero de finibus, lib. iii. alfo Diogenes Laertius In 
Zenone, lib, vii. fegment 84. 

3C4 . Of S y STEMS Part VL 

The felf-iove of njan embraced, if I may fay fo, 
his body and ail its different members, his mind and 
all its different faculties and pov/ers, and defired the 
Drefervation and maintenance of them all in their 
belt and moft perfect condition. Whatever tended 
to fupport this flate of exifcence was, therefore, by 
nature pointed out to him as fit to be chofen ; and 
whatever tended to deitroy it, as fit to be rejefed. 
Thus health, ftrength, agility, and eafe of body, as 
v;ell as the external convcniencies which could pro- 
mote thefe, wealth, power, honours, the refpedt and 
efteem of thofe we live with, were naturally pointed 
GUI to us as things eligible, and of v/hich the polTef- 
fion was preferable to the contrary. On the other 
hand, ficknefs, infirmity, unwieldinefs, pain of body, 
as well as all the external inconveniencies which 
tended to occafion or bring on any of them, poverty, 
the want of authority, the contempt or hatred of 
thofe we live with ; were, in the fame manner, pointed 
out to us as things to be Ihunned and avoided. In 
each of thofe two different clafTes of objeds there 
were fome which appeared to be more the objedts 
either of choice or rejedion than others in the fame 
clafs. Thus, in the nrft clafs, health appeared evi- 
dently preferable to ftrength, and ftrength to agility j 
reputation to power, and power to riches. And thus 
too, in the fecond clafs, ficknefs was more to be 
avoided than unwieldinefs of body, ignominy than 
poverty, and poverty than the want of authority. 
Virtue and the propriety of condu6l confifted in 
choofing and rejedling all different objeds and cir- 
cumftances according as they were by nature rendered 
more or lefs the objeds of choice or rejedion ; in 
feleding always from among the feveral objeds of 
choice prefented to us, that which was moft to be 


Sed:. II. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 305 

chofen, when we could not obtain them all : and in 
feleding too out of the feveral objeds of reje6lion 
offered to us, that which was lead to be avoided, 
when it was not in our power to avoid them all. By 
choofing and rejecfting with this juft and accurate dif- 
cernment, by thus bellowing upon every objedl the 
precife degree of attention it defervcd, according to 
the place which it held in this natural fcale of things, 
we maintained, according to the Stoics, that per fecfl 
reclitude of condu6l which conftituced theelTenceof 
virtue. This was what they called to live confifr- 
ently, to live according to nature, and to obey thofe 
laws and diredions which nature, or the Author of 
nature, had prefcribed for our conduct. 

So far the Stoical idea of propriety and virtue is 
not very different from that of Arillotle and the an- 
tient peripatetics. What chiefly diflinguifhed thofe 
two fyftem'S from one another was the different de- 
grees of felf-command which they required. The 
peripatetics allowed of lome degree of perturbation 
;as fuitable to the weaknefs of human nature, and as 
ufeful to fo imperfedl a creature as man. If his own 
misfortunes excited no paffionate grief, if his own in- 
juries called forth no lively refentment, reafon, or a 
regard to the general rules which determined what 
was right and fit to be done, would commonly, they 
tliought, be too weak to prompt him to avoid the 
one or to beat off the other. The Stoics, on the 
contrary, demanded the moil perfed: apathy, and re- 
garded every emotion which could in the fmallefl de- 
gree diflurb the tranquillity of the mind, as the cf- 
fedl of levity and folly. The Peripatetics feem to 
have thought that no paffion exceeded the bounds of 
propriety as long as the fpedator, by the utmofl ef- 

X fort 

3^6 Of SYSTEMS Part VI, 

fort of humanity, could fympathize with it. The 
Stoics, on the contrary, appear to have regarded 
every paflion as improper, which made any demand 
upon the fympathy of the fpedator, or required him 
to alter in any relpe^t the natural and ordinary ftate 
of his mind, in order to keep time with the vehe- 
mence of its emotions. A man of virtue, they 
feem to have thought, ought not to depend upon 
the generofity of thofe he lives with for pardon or 

According to the Stoics, every event ihould, to 
a wife man, appear indifferent, and what for its own 
fake could be the objedt neither of defire, nor aver- 
fion, neither of joy, nor forrow. if he preferred 
fome events to others, if fome fituations were the ob- 
jedls of his choice, and others of his reje(5lion, * it 
was not, becaufe he regarded the one as, in them- 
felves, in any refpedt better than the other, or thought 
that his own happinefs would be more complete in, 
what is called, the fortunate, than in what is com- 
monly regarded as the diftrefsful fituation ; but be- 
caufe the propriety of adlion, the rule which the 
gods had given him for the direction of his condudt, 
required him to choofe and rejedl in this manner. 
Among the primary objedts of natural inclination, or 
among thofe things which nature had originally re- 
commended to us as eligible, was the profperity, of 
our family, of our relations, of our friends, of our 
country, of mankind, and of the univerfe in general. 
Nature too had taught us that as the profperity of 


* Some of thefe expreflions found a little aukward in the 
Englifh language: they are literal tranflations of the technical 
terms of the Stoics, 

Sedt. II. ^ Moral Philosophy. 307 

two was preferable to that of one, that of many or of 
all muft be infinitely more fo. That we ourfelves 
were but one, and that confequendy wherever our 
profperity was inconfiftent with that, either of the 
whole, or of any confiderable part of the whole, it 
ought, even in our own choice, to yield to what was 
fo valtly preferable. As all the events in this world 
were condudled by the providence of a wife, pow- 
erful and good God, we might be alTured that what- 
ever happened, tended to the profperity and perfec- 
tion of the whole. If we ourfelves, therefore, were 
in poverty, in ficknefs, or in any other calamity, we 
ought, firft of all, to ufe our utmoft endeavours, fo 
far as juftice and our duty to others would allow, to 
refcue ourfelves from this difagreeable circumftance. 
But if after all we could do, we found this impofu- 
ble, we ought to reft fatisfied that the order and per- 
fedlion of the univerfe required that we ihould in the 
mean time continue in this fituation. And as the 
profperity of the whole fhould, even to us, appear 
preferable to fo infignificant a part as ourfelves. Our 
fituation, whatever it was, ought from that moment 
to become the objedt of our choice, and even of our 
defire, if we would maintain that complete propriety 
and redlitude of fentiment and conduct in which the 
perfedion of our nature confifts. If, indeed, any 
opportunity of extricating ourfelves (hould offer, ic 
became our duty to embrace it. The order of the 
univerfe, it was evident, no longer required our con- 
tinuance in this fituation, and the great diredor of 
the world plainly called upon us to leave it, by fo 
clearly pointing out the road which we were to fol- 
low. It was the fame cafe with the adverfity of our 
relations, our friends, our country. If without vio- 

X z lating 

o^o8 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL 

lating any more facred obligation, It was in our 
power to prevent or to put an end to their calamity^ 
it undoubtedly was our duty to do fo. The propri- 
ety of ad ion, the rule which Jupiter had given us 
for the direction of our condudl, evidently required 
this of us. But if it was altogether out of our power 
to do either, we ought then to confider this event as 
the moft fortunate which could poiTibly have hap- 
pened : Becaufe we might be afliired that it tended 
mod to the profperity and order of the whole : which 
was what we ourfelves, if we were wife and equita- 
able, ought moil of all to defire, " In what lenfe, 
^' favs Epi6letus, are fome things faid to be accord- 
" ins; to our nature, and others contrary to it ? it is 
*' in that fenfe in which we confider ouiklves as fe- 
'' parated and detached from all other things. For 
" thus it may be faid to be according to the nature of 
'' the foot to be always clean. But if you confider 
*' it as a footy and not as fomething detached from the 
*' reft of the body, it muft behove it fometimes to 
" trample in the dirt, and fometimes to tread upon 
" thorns, and fometimes too to be cut off for the fake 
" of the whole body ; and if it refufes this, it is no 
^' longer a foot. Thus too ought we to conceive 
" with regard to ourfelves. What are you t A man. 
" If you confider yourfelf as fomething feparated 
" and detached, it is agreeable to your nature to live 
" to old age, to be rich, to be in health. But if you 
*' confider yourfelf as a man, and as a part of a 
" whole, upon account of that whole it will behoove 
" you fometimes to be in ficknefs, fometimes to be ex- 
" pofed to the inconveniency of a fea voyage, fome- 
" times to be in want ; and at laft, perhaps, to die 
** before your time. Why then do you complain ? 

" Don't 

S€<ib. IT. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 30^ 

*' Don't you know that by doing fo, as the foot ceafes 
" to be a foot, fo you ceafe to be a man ?" * 

This fubmifilon to the order of the univcrfe, this 
entire indifference with regard to whatever concerns 
ourfelves, when put into the balance with the intereil 
of the whole, could derive its propriety, it is evident, 
from no other principle befides that, upon which I 
have endeavoured to fhow, the propriety of jultice 
was founded. As long as we view our own interefts 
with our own eyes, it is fcar.ce poffible that we fhotild 
willingly acquiefce in their being thus facrificed to 
the interefts of the whole. It is only when we view 
thofe oppofite interefts with tht eyes of others, than 
what concerns ourfelves can appear to be fo con- 
temptible in the comparifon, as to be refigned with- 
out any reludance. To every body but the perfon 
principally concerned, nothing can appear more 
agreeable to reafon and propriety than that the part 
Ihould give place to the whole. But what is agree- 
able to the reafon of all other men, ought not to ap- 
pear contrary to his. He himfelf therefore ought to 
approve of this facrifice, and acknowledge its confor- 
mity to reafon. But all the affcdions of a wife man, 
according to the ftoics, are perfedly agreeable to rea- 
fon and propriety, and of their own accord coincide 
with whatever thefe ruling principles prefcribe. A 
wife man, therefore, could never feel any reludlance 
to comply with this difpolition of things. 

IV. Befides thefe ancient, there are fome modern 
fyftems, according to which virtue confifls in propri- 
ety ; oi: in the fuitablenefs of the affedion from which 

X 3 we 

* Arrian. lib. II. c. 5. 

jio 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VI. 

we adl, to the caufe or objedl which excites it. The 
fyftem of Dr. Clarke, which places virtue in adting 
according to the relations of things, in regulating 
our condudb according to the fitnefs or incongruity 
which there may be in the application of certain 
adlions to certain things, or to certain relations : 
That of Mr. Woolafton, which places it in adling ac- 
cording to the truth of things, according to their 
proper nature and efience, or in treating them as 
what they really are, and not as what they are not : 
tfifet of my lord Shaftefbury, which places it in main- 
taining a proper balance of the affe6i:ions, and in al- 
lowing no paffion to go beyond its proper fphere ; 
are all of them more or lefs inaccurate defcriptions of 
the fame fundamental idea. 

The defcription of virtue which is either given, 
or at lead meant and intended to be given in each 
of thofe fyflems, for fome of the modern authors are 
not"^ very fortunate in their manner of exprefTing 
themfelves, is no doubt quite juft, fo far as it goes. 
There is no virtue without propriety, and wherever 
there is propriety, fome degree of approbation is 
due. But flill this defcription is imperfed. For 
though propriety is an eflential ingredient in every 
virtuous adlion, it is not always the fole ingredient. 
Beneficent adlions have in them another quality by 
which they appear not only to deferve approbation 
but recompenfe. None of thofe fyftems account 
either eafily or fufficiently for that fuperior degree 
of efteem which feems due to fuch adlions, or for 
that diverfity of fentiment which they naturally ex- 
cite. Neither is the defcription of vice more com- 
plete. For in the fame manner, though impropriety 
is a neceflary ingredient in every vicious adion, it is 


Sed. II. (?/ Moral Phi LOsopHY. 311 

not always the fole ingredient, and there is often the 
higheft degree of abfurdity and impropriety in very 
harmlefs and infignificant actions. Deliberate a6li- 
ons, of a pernicious tendency to thofe we live with, 
have, befides their impropriety, a peculiar qualicy of 
their own by which they appear to deferve, not only 
difapprobation, but punifhment ; and to be the ob- 
je^ls, not of diflike merely, but of refentment and 
revenge : and none of thofe fyftcms eafily and fuffi- 
cntly account for that fuperior degree of deteftation 
which we feel for fuch adions. 


Of thofe fyftems which make virtue conjifi in pru- 

A H E moft ancient of thofe fyftems which make 
virtue confift in prudence, and of which any confi- 
derable remains have come down to us, is that of 
Epicurus, who is faid, however, to have borrowed 
all the leading principles of his philofophy, from 
fome of thofe who had gone before him, particularly 
from Ariftippus ; though it is very probable, not- 
withllanding this allegation of his enemies, that at 
lead his manner of applying thofe principles was al- 
together his own. 

According to Epicurus, * bodily pleafure and 
pain were the fole ultimate objects of natural defire 
and averfion. That they were always the natural 
objedls of thofe paffions, he thought required no 

X 4 proof. 

* See Cicero dc finibus, lib. i. Diogenes Laert. I. x. 

312 0/ Systems Part VI. 

proof. Pleafure might, indeed, appear fometimes 
to be avoided ♦, not, hov/ever, becaufe it was plea- 
fure, but becaufe, by the enjoyment of ir, we fhould 
either forfeit fome greater pleafure, or expofc our- 
felves to fome pain that was more to be avoided than 
this pleafure was to be defired. Pain, in the fame 
manner, might appear fometimes to be eligible •, not, 
however, becaufe it was pain, but becaufe by en- 
during it we mieht either avoid a ftill o-reater pain, 
or acquire fome pleafure of much more importance. 
That bodily pain and pleafure, therefore, were al- 
ways the natural obje6ls of defire and averfion, was, 
he thought, abundantly evident. Nor was it lefs fo, 
he imagined, that they were the fole ultimate obje6ls 
of thofe pafTions. Whatever elfe was either defired 
or avoided was fo, according to him, upon account 
of its tendency to produce one or other of thofe fen- 
fations. The tendency to procure pleafure rendered 
power and riches defirable, as the contrary tendency 
to produce pain made poverty and infignificancy the 
objedts of averfion. Honour and reputation were 
valued, becaufe the efteem and love of thofe we live 
with were of the greated confequence both to pro- 
cure pleafure and to defend us from pain. Ignominy 
and bad fame, on the contrary, were to be avoided, 
becaufe the hatred, contempt, and refentment of 
thofe we lived with deftroyed all fecurity, and ne- 
ceffarily expofed us to the greateft bodily evils. 

All the pleafures and pains of the mind were, ac- 
cording to Epicurus, ultimately derived from thofe 
of the body. The mind was happy when it thought 
of the paft pleafures of the body, and hoped for 
others to come : and it was miferable when it thought 
' • of 

Se6l. il. of Moral Philosophy. 313 

o^ the pains which the body had formerly endured, 
and dreaded the lame or greater thereafter. 

But the pleafures and pains of the mind, though 
ultimately derived from thofe of the body, were 
vaftly greater than their originals. The body felt 
only the fenfation of the prefent inilant, whereas the 
mind felt alfo the pad and the future, the one by 
remembrance, the other by anticipation, and confe- 
quently both fuffered and enjoyed much more. 
When we are under the greateft bodily pain, he ob- 
ferved, we Ihall always find, if we attend to it, that 
it is not the fuffering of the prefent inilant which 
chiefly torments us, but either the agonizing re- 
membrance of the paft, or the yet more horrible dread 
of the future. The pain of each inftant, confidered 
by itfeif, and cut off from all that goes before and all 
thut comes after it, is a trifle not worth the regard- 
ing. Yet this is all which the body can ever be faid 
to fuifer. In the fame manner, when we enjoy the 
greated pleafure, we iliall always And that the bodily 
leniation, the ienlation of the prefent inftant makes 
but a imall part ot our happinefs, that our enjoy- 
ment chiefly ariles either irom the cheerful recollec- 
tion of the pail, or the Hill more joyous anticipation 
of the tucure, and that the mind alv/ays contributes 
by much the largefl (hare of the entertainment. 

Since our happinefs and mifery, therefore, de- 
pended chiefly on the mind, if this part of our na- 
ture was well difpofed, if our thoughts and opinions 
were as they Ihould be, it was of little importance 
in what manner our body was afll"(fled. Though 
under great bodily pain, we might Hill enjoy a con- 
fiderable fliare of happinefs, if our reafon and judg- 

314 c/ Systems Part VI.' 

ment maintained their luperiority. We might en- 
tertain ourfelves with the remembrance of pa(l, and 
with the hopes of future pleafure ; we might iofteii 
the rigour of our pains, by recolle(5ling what it was 
which, even in this fituation, we were under any ne- 
cefiity of fuffering. That this was merely the bodily 
fenfation, the pain of the prefent inllant, which by 
itfelf could never be very great. That whatever 
agony we fuffcred from the dread of its continuance 
V7as theeffedl of an opinion of the mind, which might 
be corredled by juiler fentiments ; by confidering 
that, if our pains were violent, they would proba- 
bly be of fhorc duration ; and that if they were of 
long continuance, they would probably be moderate, 
and admit of many intervals of cafe \ and that, at 
any rate, death was always at hand and within call 
to deliver us, which as, according to him, it put an 
end to all fenfation, either of pain or pleafure, could 
not be regarded as an evil. When we are, faid he, 
death is not ; and when death is, we are not -, death 
therefore can be nothing to us. 

If the a6lual lenfation of pofitive pain was in it- 
felf fo little to be feared, that of pleafure was ftill 
lefs to be defired. Naturally the fenfation of plea- 
fure was much lefs pungent than that of pain. If, 
therefore, this laft could take fo very little from the 
happinefs of a well difpofed mind, the other could 
add fcarce any thing to it. When the body was 
free from pain and the mind from fear and anxiety, 
the fuperadded fenfation of bodily pleafure could be 
of very little importance-, and though it might di- 
verfify, could not be properly be faid to incrcafe the 
happinefs of this fituation. 


Se6l. II. of Moral Philosophy. 315 

In eafe of body, therefore, and in fecuricy or tran- 
quillity of mind, confided, according to Epicurus, 
the mod perfed: date of humaa^ nature, the mod 
complete happinefs which man was capable of en- 
joying. To obtain this great end of natural defire 
was the fole obje6t of all the virtues, which, accord- 
ing to him, were not defirable upon their own ac- 
count, but upon account of their tendency to bring 
about this fituation. 

Prudence, for example, though according to this 
philofophy, the fource and principle of all the vir- 
tues, was not defirable upon its own account. That 
careful and laborious and circumfpedt date of mind, 
ever watchful and ever attentive to the mod didant 
confequences of every adlion, could not be a thing 
pleafant or agreeable for its own fake, but upon ac- 
count of its tendency to procure the greated goods 
and to keep off the greated evils. 

To abdain from pleafure too, to curb and ref- 
train our natural paflions for enjoyment, which was 
the office of temperance, could never be defirable 
for its own fake. The whole value of this virtue 
arofe from its utility, from its enabling us to pod- 
pone the prefent enjoyment for the fake of a greater 
to come, or to avoid a greater pain that might enfue 
from it. Temperance, in diort, was nothing but 
prudence with regard to pleafure. 

To fupport labour, to endure pain, to be expofed 
to danger or to death, the fituations which fortitude 
would often lead us into, were furely dill lefs the 
objects of natural defire. They were chofen only to 
avoid greater evils. We fubmitted to labour, in or- 

3i6 0/ S Y s T £ M s Part VI. 

ddr to avoid the greater fliame and pain of poverty, 
and we expofed ourlelves to danger and to death iti 
defence of our lihtrty and property, the means and 
inftruments of pleafure and happinefs ; or in defence 
of our country, in the fafety of which our own was 
neceflarily comprehended. Fortitude enabled us to / 
do all this cheerfully, as the bell which, in our pre- 
fent fituation, could pofTibly be done, and was in 
reality no more than prudence, good judgment, and 
prefence of mind in properly appreciating pain, la- 
bour, and danger, always choofing the lefs in order 
to avoid the greater. 

It is the fame cafe with juftice. To abftain from 
what is another's was not defirableon its own account, 
and it could not furely be better for you, that I 
fbould pofTefs what is my own, than that you fhould 
polTeis it. You ought however, to abftain from 
whatever belongs to me, becaufe by doing otherwife 
you will provoke the refentmenc and indignation of 
mankind. The fecurity and tranquillity of your 
• mind will be entirely defiroyed. You will be filled 
with fear and conflernation at the thought of that 
punifhment which you will imagine that men are at 
all times ready to inflidl upon you, and from which 
no power, no art, no concealment, will ever, in your 
own fancy, be fufficient to proted you. That other 
fpecies of juftice which confifts in doing proper good 
offices to different perfons, according to the various 
relations of neighbours, kinfmcn, friends, benefac- 
tors, fuperiors, or equals, which they may ftand in 
to us, is recommended by the fan>e reafons. To a6l 
properly in all thefe different relations procures us 
the efteem and love of thofe we live with j as to do 
otherwife excites their contempt and hatred. By the 


Seft. II. c/ Moral Philosophy. 317 

one we naturally fecure, by the other we neccfl'arily 
endanger our own eafe and tranquillity, the great and 
ultimate objeds of all our defires. The whole virtue 
of juftice, therefore, the moil important of all the 
virtues, is no more than difcreet and prudent con- 
duct with regard to our neighbours. 

Such is the dodrine of Epicurus concerning the 
nature of virtue. It may feem extraordinary that 
this philofopher, who is defcribed as a peribn of the 
mod amiable manners, fhould never have obferved, 
that, whatever may be the tendency of thofe virtues, 
or of the contrary vices, with regard to our bodily 
eafe and fecurity, th- fcntiments which they natural- 
ly excite in others are the objeds of a much more 
palTionate defire or averfion than all their other con- 
fequences ; That to be amiable, to be refpedable, 
to be the proper objea of efteem, is by every weil- 
difpofed mind more valued than all the eafe and fecu- 
rity which love, refpedt, and efteem can procure us^ 
That, on the contrary, to be odious, to be contempti- 
ble, to be the proper objed: of indignation, is more 
dre'adful than all that we can fuffer in our body from 
hatred, contempt, or indignation; and that confc- 
quently our defire of the one character, and our aver- 
fion to' the other, cannot arife from any regard to the 
effeds which cither of them is likely to produce upon 
the body. 

This fyftem is, no doubt, altogether inconfiftent 
with that which I have been endeavouring to efta- 
blilh. It is not difficult, however, to difcover from 
what phafis, if I may fay fo, from what particular 
view or afped: of nature, this account of things de- 
rives its probability. By the wife contrivance of the 


3i8 Of Sy ST E MS Part VL 

Author of nature, virtue is upon all ordinary occafi- 
ons, even with regard to this lifey real wifdom, and 
the fureft and readied means of obtaining both fafety 
and advantage. Our fuccefs or difappointment in 
our undertakings mul\ very much depend upon the 
good or bad opinion which is commonly entertained 
of us, and upon the general difpofuion of thofe we 
live with, either to aflilt or to oppofe us. But the 
beft, the fureft, the eafielt, and the readied way of 
obtaining the advantageous and of avoiding the un- 
favourable judgments of others, is undoubtedly to 
render ourfelves the proper objedls of the former and 
not of the latter. *' Do you defire, faid Socrates, 
'' the reputation of a good mufician ? The only fure 
" ^ay of obtaining it, is to become a good mufician. 
" Would you defire in the fame manner to be thought 
" capable of ferving your country either as a general 
" or as a ftatefman ? The bed way in this cafe too 
" is really to acquire the art and experience of war 
" and government, and to become really fit to be a 
*' general or a datefman. And in the fame manner 
" if you would be reckoned fober, temperate, jud, 
" and equitable, the bed way of acquiring this re- 
'^ putation is to become fober, temperate, jud, and 
" equitable. If you can really render yourfelf amia- 
*' ble, refpedlable, and the proper obje6t of edeem, 
" there is no fear of your not foon acquiring the love, 
" the refpedt, and edeem of thofe you live with.** 
Since the pradlice of virtue, therefore, is in general 
fo advantageous, and that of vice lb contrary to our 
intered, the confideration of thofe oppofite tenden- 
cies undoubtedly damps an additional beauty and 
propriety upon the one, and a new deformity and 
impropriety upon the other. Temperance, mag- 
nanimitv, judice, and beneficence, come thus to 


3e6t. II. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 319 

be approved of, not only under their proper charac- 
ters, but under the additional character of the higheft 
wifdom and moil real prudence. And in the fame 
manner the contrary vices of intemperance, pufilla- 
niniity, injullice, and either malevolence or fordid 
felfifhnefs, come to be difapproved of, not only un- 
der their proper charaders, but under the additional 
character of the moft fhorr-fighted folly and weak- 
nefs. Epicurus appears in every virtue to have at- 
tended to this fpecies of propriety only. It is that 
which is moft apt to occur to thofe who are endea- 
vouring to perfuade others to regularity of conduct. 
When men by their pradice, and perhaps too by 
their maxims, manifeftly fhow that the natural beauty 
of virtue is not like to have much effedl upon them, 
how is it poflible to move them but by reprefenting 
the folly of their condud, and how much they them- 
felvcs are in the end likely to fuffer by it ? 

By running up all the different virtues too to this 
one fpecies of propriety, Epicurus indulged a propen- 
fity, which is natural to all men, but which philofo- 
phers in particular are apt to cultivate with a pecu- 
liar fondnefs, as the great means of difplaying their 
ingenuity, the propenfity to account for all appear- 
ances from as few principles as poflible. And he, 
no doubt, indulged this propenfity ftill further, when 
he referred all the primary objedls of natural defire 
and averfion to the pleafures and pains of the body. 
The great patron of the atomical philofophy, who 
took lb much pleafure in deducing all the powers and 
qualities of bodies from the moft obvious and fami- 
liar, the figure, motion, and arrangement of the 
fmall parts of matter, felt no doubt a fimilar fatis- 
fadtion, when he accounted, in the fame manner, for 


320 Of S Y s T L M s. Part VI. 

all the fentiments and paflions of the mind from thofe 
u'hich are mofl obyioiis and familiar. 

The fyftem of Epicurus agreed with thofe of Pla- 
to, Ariftotle, and Zeno, in making virtue confifl: in 
adins in the mod fuitable manner to obtain the * 
primary objeds of natural defire. It differed from 
all of them in two other refpecls ; firll, in the account 
which it gave of thofe primary objeds of natural de- 
fire; and fecondly, in the account which it gave of 
the excellence of virtue, or of the reafon why that 
quality ought to be efteemed. 

The primary objeds of natural defire confiPied, 
according to Epicurus, in bodily pleafure and pain, 
and in nothing elfe : whereas, according to the other 
three philofophers, there were many other objeds, 
fuch as knowledge, fuch as the happinefs of our re- 
lations, of our friends, of our country, which were 
ultimately defirable for their own fakes. 

Virtue too, according to Epicurus, did not deferve 
to be purfued for its own fake, nor was itfelf one 
of the ultimate objeds of natural appetite, but was 
eligible only upon account of its tendency to prevent 
pain and to procure eafe and pleafure. In the opinion 
of the other three, on the contrary, it was defirable, 
not merely as the means of procuring the other pri- 
mary objeds of natural defire, but as fomething 
which was in itfelf more valuable than them. all. 
Man, they thought, being born for adion, his hap- 
pinefs mull confifl:, not merely in the agreeablenefs 
of his palTive fenfations, but alfo in the propriety of 
his adive exertions. 


* Prima naturae. 

Sed. ir» (?/ Moral Philosophy^ 2^.i 


Of thofi fyftems *which make virtue conjtft in bene- 

JL H E fyftem which makes virtue confift in bene- 
volence, though I think not fo ancient as all of thofe 
which I have already given an account of, is, how- 
ever, of very great antiquity. It feems to have been 
the dodtrine of the greater part of thofe philofophers 
who, about and after the age of Auguftus, called 
themfelves Ecledtics, who pretended to follow chiefly 
the opinions of Plato and Pythagoras, and who upotl 
that account are commonly known by the name of 
the later Platonifts. 

In the divine nature, according tO thefe authors, 
benevolence or love was the fole principle of adlion^ 
and diredted the exertion of all the other attributes. 
The wifdom of the Deity was employed in finding 
out the means for bringing about thofe ends which 
his goodnefs fuggefted, as his infinite power was ex- 
erted to execute them. Benevolence, however^ was 
ilill the fupreme and governing attribute, to which 
the others were fubfervient, and from which the whole 
excellency, or the whole morality, if I may be al- 
lowed fuch an exprefilon, of the divine operations^ 
was ultimately derived. The whole perfe'dlion and 
virtue of the human mind confided in fome relem- 
blance or participation of the divine perfe6lions, and, 
confequently, in being filled with the fame principle 

Y of 

322 0/ Systems Part VL 

of benevolence and love which influenced all the ani- 
ons of the deity. The adtions of men which flowed 
from this motive were alone truly praife- worthy, or 
could claim any merit in the fight of the deity. It 
was by adlions of charity and love only that we 
could imitate, as became us, the condud of God, 
that we could exprefs our humble and devout admi- 
ration of his infinite perfedions, that by foftering in 
our own minds the fame divine principle, we could 
bring our own affedlions to a greater refemblance 
with his holy attributes, and thereby become more 
proper objedls of his love and efteem ; till at laft we 
arrived at that immediate converfe and communica- 
tion with the deity to which it was the great objed of 
this philofophy to raife us. 

This fyflem, as it was much efteemed by many 
ancient fathers of the chriftian church, fo aftw the 
reformation it was adopted by feveral divines of the 
mofl eminent piety and learning, and of the moft 
amiable manners ; particularly, by Dr. Ralph Cud- 
worth, by Dr. Henry More, and by Mr. John Smith 
of Cambridge. But of all the patrons of this fyflem, 
ancient or modern, the late Dr. Hutchefon, was un- 
doubtedly beyond all comparifon, the mofl: acute, 
the moft diftindt, the moft philofophical, and what 
is of thj^ greateft confequence of all, the fobereft and 
moft judicious. 

That virtue confifts in benevolence is a notion 
fupported by many appearances in human nature. 
It has been obferved already that proper benevo- 
lence is the moft graceful and agreeable of all the 
affcdtions, that it is recommended to us by a double 
fympathy, that as its tendency is neceflarily benefi- 

Sed. II. (?/ Moral Phi LosopHY. 32-^ 

cent, it is the proper objedl of gratitude and reward^ 
and that upon all thefe accounts it appears to our 
natural fentiments to poffefs a merit fuperiof to any 
other. It has been obferved too that even the weak- 
nefles of benevolence are not very difagreeable to us, 
whereas thofe of every other pafTion are always ex- 
tremely difgufting. Who docs not abhor exceffive 
malice, exceilive felfiihnefs, or exceflive refentment ? 
But the moft exceflive indulgence even of partial 
friendlhip is not fo offenfive. It is the benevolent 
paflions only which can exert themfelves without 
any regard or attention to propriety, and yet retain 
fomething about them which is engaging. There is 
lomething pleafing even in mere inftindive good- 
will which goes on to do good offices without once 
refleding whether by this condud it is the proper 
objed either of blame or approbation. It is not fa 
with the other paflions. The moment they are de- 
ferted, the moment they arc unaccompanied by the 
fenfe of propriety, they ceafe to be agreeable* 

As benevolence beft:ows upon thofe actions v/hich 
proceed from it, a beauty fuperior to all others, fo 
the want of it, and much more the contrary inclina- 
tion, communicates a peculiar deformity to whatever 
evidences fuch a difpofuion. Pernicious a(ftions are 
often punifliable for no other reafon than becaufe they 
fliow a want of fufficient attention to the happinefs 
of our neighbour, 

Befides all this, Dr. Hutchefon * obferved, that 
whenever in any adion, fuppofed to proceed from 
benevolent affedions, feme other motive had been 

Y 2 difcovercdj 

• See Inquiry concerning virtue, fett. i . ind 2, 

324 Of S Y 5 T E MS Part VI. 

dlfcovered, our fenfe of the merit of this adlion was 
juft fo far diminillied as this motive was believed to 
have influenced it. If an adion, fuppofed to proceed 
from gratitude, fhould be difcovered to have arifen from 
an expedlation of fome new favour, or if what was 
apprehended to proceed from public fpirit, fhould be 
found out to have taken its origin from the hope of 
a pecuniary reward, fuch a difcovery would entirely 
deftroy all notion of merit or praife-worthinefs in 
either of thefe anions. Since, therefore, the mixture 
of any felfifli motive, like that of a bafe alloy, di- 
minilhed or took away altogether the merit which 
would otherwife have belonged to any adlion, it was 
evident, he imagined, that virtue muft confift in pure 
and difmterefted benevolence alone. 

When thofe adbions, on the contrary, which are 
commonly fuppofed to proceed from a felfifh motive, 
are difcovered to have arifen from a benevolent one, 
it greatly enhances our fenfe of their merit. If we 
believed of any perfon that he endeavoured to ad- 
vance his fortune from no other view but that of do- 
ing friendly offices, and of making proper returns to 
his bencfadtors, we ihould only love and efteem him 
the more. And this obfervation feemed flill more to 
confirm the conclufion, that it was benevolence only 
which could (lamp upon any adlion the charader of 

Laft of all, what, he imagined, was an evident 
proof of the juftnefs of this account of virtue, in all 
the difputes of cafuifts concerning the reditude of 
condud, the public good, he obferved, was the 
ftandard to which they conftantly referred ; thereby 
univerfally acknowledging that whatever tended to 


Sedl. II. c/ Moral Philosophy. 325 

promote the happinefs of mankind was right and 
laudable and virtuous, and the contrary, wrong, 
blameable, and vicious. In the late debates about 
pafTive obedience and the right of refiftance, the fole 
point in controverfy among men of fenfe was, whe- 
ther univerfal fubmiffion would probably be attended 
with greater evils than temporary infurredtions when 
privileges were invaded. Whether what, upon the 
whole, tended moft to the happinefs of mankind, 
was not alfo morally good, was never once, he faidj 
made a queftion. 

Since benevolence, ther efore, was the only mo- 
tive which could bellow upon any adion the charac- 
ter of virtue, the greater the benevolence which was 
evidenced by any action, the greater the praife which 
muft belong to it. 

Thofe adions which aimed at the happinefs of a 
great community, as they demonftrated a more en- 
larged benevolence than thofe which aimed only at 
that of a fmaller fyflem, fo were they, likewife, pro- 
portionally the more virtuous. The moil virtuous 
of all affedtions, therefore, was that which embraced 
as its objed the happinefs of all intelligent beings. 
The lead virtuous, on the contrary, of thofe to which 
the charadler of virtue could in any refpedt belong, 
was that which aimed no further than at the happi- 
nefs of an individual, fuch as a fon, a brother, a 

In directing all our adlions to promote the greatefl 
pofTible good, in fubmitting all inferior afredtions to 
the defire of the general happinefs of mankind, in 
regarding ones felf but as one of the many, whofe 

y 3 profperify 

^zS Of Systems Part VI. 

profperlty was to be purfued no further than it was 
confiftent with, or conducive to that of the whole, 
confided the perfedion of virtue. 

Self-love was a principle which could never be 
virtuous in any degree or in any diredlion. It was 
vicious whenever it obftru6led the general good. 
When it had no other effedl than to make the in- 
dividual take care of his own happinefs, it was merely 
innocent, and tho' it deferved no praife, neither 
pught it to incur any blame. Thofe benevolent 
adtions which were performed, notwithftanding fome 
ftrong motive from felf-intereft, were the more vir- 
tuous upon that account. They demonftrated the 
llrength and vigour of the benevolent principle. 

Dr. Hutchefon * was fo far from allowing felf- 
love to be in any cafe a motive of virtuous adtions, 
that even a regard to the pleafure of felf-approbation, 
to the comfortable applaufe of our own confciences, 
according to him, diminifhed the merit of a benevo- 
lent adion. This was a felfifli motive, he thought, 
which, fo far as it contributed to any adion, demon- 
ftrated the weaknefs of that pure and difinterefted 
benevolence vyhich could alone (lamp upon the con- 
dud of man the charader of virtue. In the com- 
mon judgments of mankind, however, this regard 
to the approbation of our own minds is fo far from 
being confidered as what can in any refped diminifh 
the virtue of any adion, that it is rather looked upon 
as the fole motive which dcferves the appellation of 



* Inquiry concerning virtue, fe£l. 2. art. 4. alfo illuftrations 
on the moral fenfe, fe6l. 5. laft paragraph. 

Se<5t. II. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 327 

Such is the account given of the nature of virtue 
in this amiable fyftem, a fyftem which has a peculiar 
tendency to nourifh and fupport in the human heart 
the nobleft and the mod agreeable of all affedions, 
and not only to check the injuflice of fclf-iove, but 
in fome meafure to dilcourage that principle altoge- 
ther, by reprefenting it as what could never reflect 
any honour upon thofe who were influenced by it. 

As fome of the other fyftems which I have already 
given an account of, do not fufficiently explain from 
whence arifes the peculiar excellency of the fupremc 
virtue of beneficence, fo this fyftem feems to have 
the contrary defe<5l, of not fufficiently explaining 
from whence arifes our approbation of the inferior 
virtues of prudence, vigilance, circumfpeftion, tem- 
perance, conftancy, firmnefs. The view and aim of 
our afFedlions, the beneficent and hurtful efFeds which 
they tend to produce, are the only qualities at all at- 
tended to in this fyftem. Their propriety and im- 
propriety, their fuitablenefs and unfuitablenefs, to 
the caulc which excites them, are difregarded alto- 

Regard to our own private happinefs and intereft 
too, appear upon many occafions very laudable prin- 
ciples of adion. The habits ofoeconomy, induftry, 
difcretion, attention, and application of thought, 
are generally fuppofed to be cultivated from felf- 
interefted motives, and at the fame time are appre- 
hended to be very praife-worthy qualities, which de- 
ferve the efteem and approbation of every body. 
The mixture of a felfifh motive, it is true, feems 
often to fully the beauty of thofe actions which ought 

y 4 to 

0/ Systems Part VI. 

to arife from a benevolent afFedion. The caufe of 
this, however, is not that felf-love can never be 
the motive of a virtuous adion, but that the bene- 
volent principle appears in this particular cafe to 
want its due degree of ftrength, and to be altoge- 
ther unfuitable to its obje6t. The charader, there-j 
fore, feems evidently imperfedt, and upon the whole 
to deferve blame rather than praife. The mixture 
of a benevolent motive in an adlion to which felf- 
love alone ought to be fufficient to prompt us, is 
not fo apt indeed to diminifh our fenfe of its propri- 
ety, or of the virtue of the perfon who performs it. 
We are not ready to fufpedt any perfon of being de- 
fedtive in felfiHinefs. This is by no means the weak 
fide of human nature, or the failing of which wc 
are apt to be fufpicious. If we could really believe, 
however, of any man, that, was it not from a regard 
to his family and friends, he would not take that 
proper care of his health, his life, or his fortune, to 
which felf-prefervation alone ought to be fufficient to 
prompt him, it would undoubtedly be a failing, tho* 
one of thofe amiable failings, which render a perfon 
rather the objedt of pity than of contempt or hatred. 
It would ftill, however, fomewhat diminifh the dig- 
nity and refpe6lablenefs of his charadler. Carelefs- 
nefs and want of ceconomy are univerfally difap- 
proved of, not, however as proceeding from a want 
of benevolence, but from a want of the proper at- 
tention to the objeds of felf-intereft. 

Though the ftandard by which cafuifts fre- 
quently determine what is right or wrong in human 
condud, be its tendency to the welfare or diforder 
of fociety, it does not follow that a regard to the 


Se6t. II. of Moral Philosophy. 329 

welfare of fociety fhould be the fole virtuous motive 
of adion, but only that, in any competition, it 
ought to cad the balance againft all other motives. 

Benevolence may, perhaps, be the fole principle 
of adion in the Deity, and there are feveral, not im- 
probable, arguments which tend to perfuade us that 
it is fo. It is not eafy to conceive what other motive 
an independent and all perfect being, who (lands in 
need of nothing external, and whofe happinefs is 
complete in himfelf, can a6t from. But whatever 
may be the cafe with the Deity, fo imperfed a crea- 
ture as man, the fupport of whofe exiftence requires 
fo many things external to him, mud often aft from 
many other motives. The condition of human na- 
ture were peculiarly hard, if thofe affeftions, which, 
by the very nature of our being, ought frequently to 
influence our conduft, could upon no occafion appear 
virtuous, or deferve efleem and commendation from 
any body. 

Thofe three fyflems, that which places virtue in 
propriety, that which places it in prudence, and 
that which makes it confift in benevolence, are the 
principal accounts which have been given of the na- 
ture of virtue. To one or other of them, all the 
other defcriptions of virtue, how different foever they 
may appear, are eafily reducible. 

That fyftem which places virtue in obedience to 
the will of the Deity, may be counted either among 
thofe which make it confifl: in prudence, or among 
thofe which make it confifl; in propriety. When it is 
afked, why we ought to obey the will of the Deity, 
this queftion, which would be impious and abfurd 
in the highefl: degree, if aflced from any doubt that 


^30 0/*Systems Part VI. 

we ought to obey him, can admit but of two differ- 
ent anfwers. It muft either be faid that we ought to 
obey the will of the Deity becaufe he is a being of 
infinite power, who will reward us eternally if we do 
fo, and punilh us eternally if wc do otherwife : Or 
it muH be faid, that independent of any regard to our 
own happinefs, or to rewards and punilhments of 
any kind, there is a congruity and fitnefs that a crea- 
ture fliould obey its creator, that a limited and imper- 
fedl being fliould fubmit to one of infinite and in- 
comprehenfible perfedtions. Befides one or other of 
ihefe two it is impofTible to conceive that any other 
anfwer can be given to this queftion. If the firfl: an- 
fwer be the proper one, virtue confifts in prudence, 
or in the proper purfuit of our own final intereft and 
happinefs *, fince it is upon this account that we are 
obliged to obey the will of the Deity. If the fecond 
anfwer be the proper one, virtue muft confift in pro- 
priety, fince the ground of our obligation to obedi- 
ence is the fuitablenefs or congruity of the fentiments 
of humility and fubmiffion to the fuperiority of the 
objedl: which excites them. 

That fyftem which places virtue in utility coincides 
too with that which makes it confift in propriety. 
According to this fyftem all thofe qualities of the 
mind" which are agreeable or advantageous, either to 
the perfon himfelf or to others, are approved of as 
virtuous, and the contrary difapproved of as vicious. 
But the agreeablenefs or utility of any afllsdion de- 
pends upon the degree which it is allowed to fubfift 
in. Every affedion is ufeful when it is confined to 
a certain degree of moderation •, and every affedlion 
IS difadvantageous when it exceeds the proper bounds. 
According to this fyftem therefore, virtue confifts, 


Se£l. IL (?/ Moral Philosophy. 331 

not in any one afFedion, but in the proper degree of 
all the affcdions. The only difference between it 
and that which I have been endeavouring toeftabhfh, 
is, that it makes utility, and not fympathy, or the 
correfpondent affedion of the fpedator, the natural 
^nd original meafure of this proper degree. 


Of licentious fyjlems. 


L L thofe fyftems, which I have hitherto given 
an account of, fuppofe that there is a real and eflen • 
tial diftindlion between vice and virtue, whatever 
thefe qualities may confift in. There is a real and 
eflential difference between the propriety and impro- 
priety of any affedion, between benevolence and any 
other principle of adlion, between real prudence and 
ihort- lighted folly or precipitate rafhnefs. In the 
main too all of them contribute to encourage the 
praife-worthy, and to difcourage the blameable dif- 

It may be true perhaps, of fome of them, that 
they tend, in fome meafure, to break the balance 
of the affedcions, and to give the mind a particular 
bias to fome principles of adlion, beyond the pro- 
portion that is due to them. The ancient fyftems 
which place virtue in propriety, feem chiefly to re- 
commend the great, the awful, and the refpedlable 
virtues, the virtues of felf government and felf- 
command -, fortitude, magnanimity, independency 
upon fortune, the contempt of all outward accidents, 
of pain, poverty, exile, and death. Ic is in thefe 


3^Z 0/ S Y s T E M s , Part VI. 

great exertions that the noblefl: propriety of conduft 
is difplayed. The foft, the amiable, the gentle vir- 
tues, all the virtues of indulgent humanity are, in 
comparifon, but little infifted upon, and feem, on 
the contrary, by the Stoics in particular, to have 
been often regarded as mere weaknefTes which it be- 
hoved a wife man not to harbour in his bread. 

The benevolent fyftem, on the other hand, while 
it fofters and encourages all thofe milder virtues in 
the higheft degree, feems entirely to negledl the more 
awful and refpedlable qualities of the mind. It even 
denies them the appellation of virtues. It calls them 
moral abilities, and treats them as qualities which do 
not deferve the fame fort of efteem and approbation, 
that is due to what is properly denominated virtue. 
All thofe principles of adlion which aim only at our 
own inrereft, it treats, if that be poflible, ftill worfe. 
So far from having any merit of their own, they di- 
minilh, it pretends, the merit of benevolence, when 
they co-operate with it : and prudence, it is aflerted, 
when employed only in promoting private intcreft, 
can never even be imagined a virtue. 

That fyftem, again, which makes virtue confift 
in prudence only, while it gives the higheft encou- 
ragement to the habits of caution, vigilance, fobrieiy, 
and judicious moderation, feems to degrade equally 
both the amiable and refpedable virtues, and to 
ftrip the former of all their beauty, and the latter of 
all their grandeur. 

But notwithftanding thefe defe(5ts, the general ten- 
dency of each of thofe three fyftems is to encourage 
the beft and moft laudable habits of the human mind : 



Se6l:. II. (?/ Moral Philosophy. j^j 

and it were well for fociety, if, either mankind in 
general, or even thofe few who pretend to live ac- 
cording to any philofophical rule, were to regulate 
their condudt by the precepts of any one of them. 
We may learn from each of them fomething that h 
both valuable and peculiar. If it was poflible, by 
precept and exhortation, to infpire the mind with 
fortitude and magnanimity, the ancient fyftems of 
propriety would feem fufficient to do this. Or if it 
was poflible, by the fame means, to foften it into 
humanity, and to awaken the afFedlions of kindneis 
and general love towards thofe we live with, fome 
of the pidures with which the benevolent fyftem pre- 
fents us, might feem capable of producing this ef- 
fe^. We may learn from the fyftem of Epicurus, 
though undoubtedly the worft of all the three, how 
much the practice of both the amiable and refpcdta- 
ble virtues is conducive to our own intereft, to our 
own eafe and fafety and quiet even in this life. As 
Epicurus placed happinefs in the attainment of eafe 
and fecurity, he exerted himfelf in a particular man- 
ner to (how that virtue was, not merely the beft and 
the fureft, but the only means of acquiring thofe in- 
valuable pofleflions. The good effeds of virtue, 
iipon our inward tranquility and peace of mind, are 
what other philofophers have chiefly celebrated. Epi- 
curus, without negledting this topic, has chiefly in- 
fifted upon the influence of that amiable quality on 
our outward profperity and fafety. It was upon this 
account that his writings were fo much ftudied in the 
ancient world by men of all different philofophical 
parties. It is from him that Cicero, the great enemy 
of the Epicurean fyftem, borrows his moft agreeable 
proofs that virtue alone is fufficient to fecure happi- 
nefs. Sofieca, though a Stoic, the fe6t moft oppo- 


334 Of Systems Pai't VL 

fite to that of Epicurus, yet quotes this philofopher 
more frequently than any other. 

There are, however, fome other fyftems which 
feem to take away altogether the diftindtion between 
vice and virtue, and of which the tendency is, upon 
that account, wholly pernicious : I mean the fyftems 
of the duke of Rochefoucault and Dr. Mandeville. 
Thouo^h the notions of both thefe authors are in al- 
moft every refpedl erroneous, there are, however, 
fome appearances in human nature which, when 
viewed in a certain manner, feem at firft fight to fa- 
vour them. Thefe, firft flightly fketched out with 
the elegance and delicate precifion of the duke of 
Rochefoucault, and afterwards more fully repre- 
fented with the lively and humorous, though coarfe 
and ruftic eloquence of Dr. Mandeville, have thrown 
upon their dodtrines an air of truth and probability 
which is very apt to impofe upon the unfkilful. 

Dr. Mandeville, the moft methodical of thofe 
two authors, confiders whatever is done from a fenfe 
of propriety, from a regard to what is commendable 
and praife-worthy, as being done from a love of 
praife and commendation, or as he calls it from va- 
nity. Man, he obferves, is naturally much more 
interefted in his own happinefs than in that of others, 
and it is impofliblethat in his heart he can ever really 
prefer their profperity to his own. Whenever he ap- 
pears to do fo, we may be affured that he impofes 
upon us, and that he is then ading from the fame 
felfifti motives as at all other times. Among his 
other felfifh pafTions, vanity is one of the ftrongeft, 
and he is always eafily flattered and greatly delighted 
with the applaufes of thofe about him. When he 


Se€t. 11. of Moral Philosophy. 335 

appears to facrifice his own intereft to that of his 
companions, he knows that this conduct will be 
highly agreeable to their felflove, and that they will 
not fail to exprefs their fatisfadion by bellowing up- 
on him the moft extravagant praifes. The pleafure 
which he expedts from this, over- balances, in his 
opinion, the intereft which he abandons in order to 
procure it. His condu6l, therefore, upon this oc- 
cafion, is in reality juft as felfifh, and arifes from juft 
as mean a motive as upon any other. He is flatter- 
ed, however, and he flatters himfelf with the belief 
that it is entirely difinterefted •, fince, unlefs this was 
fuppofed, it would not feem to merit any commenda- 
tion either in his own eyes or in thole of others. All 
public fpirit, therefore, all preference of public to 
private intereft, is, according to him a mere cheat 
and impofltion upon mankind ; and that human vir- 
tue which is fo much boafted of, and which is the 
occafion of fo much emulation among men, is the 
mere offspring of flattery begot upon pride. 

Whether the moft generous and public fpirited 
adtions may not, in fome fenfe, be regarded as pro- 
ceeding from felf-love, I fhall not at prefent exa- 
mine. The decifion of this queftion is not, I appre- 
hend, of any importance towards eftablifhing the 
reality of virtue, fince felf-love may frequently be a 
virtuous motive of adlion. I fliall only endeavour to 
(how that the dcflre of doing what is honourable and 
noble, of rendering ourfclves the proper objeds of 
efteem and approbation, cannot with any propriety 
be called vanity. Even the love of well-grounded 
fame and reputation, the defire of acquiring efteem 
by what is really eftimable, does not deferve that 
name. The firft is the love of virtue, the nobleft 


33^ Of Systems Part Vt 

and the beft paflion of human nature. The fecond 
is the love of true glory, a paflion inferior no doubt 
to the former, but which in dignity appears to come 
immediately after it. He is guiky of vanity who de- 
fires praife for qualities which are either not praife- 
worthy in any degree, or not in that degree which 
he cxpedls to be praifed for them j who fees his cha- 
rafter upon the frivolous ornaments of drefs and 
equipage, or the equally frivolous accomplifhments 
of ordinary behaviour. He is guilty of vanity who 
defires praife for what indeed very well deferves it, 
but what he perfedlly knows does not belong to him. 
The empty coxcomb who gives himfeif airs of im- 
portance which he has no title to, the filly liar who 
aflumes the merit of adventures which never happen- 
ed, the foolifh plagiary who gives himfeif out for the 
author of what he has no pretenfions to, are properly 
accufed of this paflion. He too is faid to be guilty 
of vanity who is not contented with the filent fenti- 
ments of efteem and approbation, who feems to be 
fonder of their noify expreflions and acclamations 
than of the fentiments themfelves, who is never fatis- 
iied but when his own praifes are ringing in his ears, 
and whofolicits with the moft: anxious importunity all 
external marks of refpedl, is fond of titles, of compli- 
ments, of being vifited, of being attended, of being 
taken notice of in public places with the appearance of 
deference and attention. This frivolous paflion is al- 
together different from either of the two former, and 
is the paflion of the loweft:, and the leafl: of mankind, 
as they are of the noblefl: and the greatefl:. 

But though thefe three pafllons, the defire of ren- 
dering ourfelves the proper objects of honour and 
efteem j or of becqming what is honourable and 


Sed:. II. of Moral Philosophy. 337 

eftimable ; the defire of acquiring honour and efteem 
by really deferving thofe fentiments ; and the frivo- 
lous defire of praife at any rate, are widely different ; 
though the two former are always approved of, 
while the latter never fails to be defpifed ; there is, 
however, a certain remote affinity among them, 
which, exaggerated by the humorous and diverting 
eloquence of this lively author, has enabled him to 
impofe upon his readers. There is an affinity be- 
tween vanity and the love of true glory, as both thefe 
paffions aim at acquiring efteem and approbation. 
But they are different in this, that the one is a juft, 
reafonable, and equitable paffion, while the other is 
unjufl, abfurd, and ridiculous. The man who de- 
fires efteem for what is really eftimable, defires no- 
thing but what he is juftly entitled to, and what can- 
not be refufed him without fome fort of injury. He, 
on the contrary, who defines it upon any other terms, 
demands what he has no juft claim to. The firft is 
eafily fatisfied, is not apt to be jealous or fufpicious 
that we do not efteem him enough, and is feldom fo- 
licitous about receiving many external marks of our 
regard. The other, on the contrary, is never to be 
fatisfied, is full of jealoufy and fufpicion that we do 
not efteem him fo much as he defires, becaufe he has 
fome fecret confcioufnefs that he defires more than he 
deferves. The Icaft negledt of ceremony, he confi- 
ders as a mortal affront, and as an expreffion of the 
moft determined contempt. He is reftlefs and im- 
patient, and perpetually afraid that we have loft ail 
rcfpedt for him, and is upon this account always 
anxious to obtain new expreflions of efteem, and 
cannot be kept in temper but by continual atten- 
dance and adulation, 

Z There 

33^ 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL- 

There is an affinity too between the defire of be- 
coming what is honourable and eftimable, and the 
defire of honour and efleem, between the love of vir- 
tue and the love of true glory. They refemble one 
another not only in this refped, that both aim at 
really being what is honourable and noble, but even 
in that refpetSt in which the love of true glory refem- 
bles what is properly called vanity, fome reference 
to the fentiments of others. The man of the greateft 
magnanimity, who defires virtue for its own fake, 
and is moft indifferent about what adlually are the 
opinions of mankind with regard to him, is (till, 
however, delighted with the thoughts of what they 
fliould be, with the conlcioufnefs that though he 
may neither be honoured nor applauded, he is ftili 
the proper objedl of honour and applaufe, and that 
if mankind were cool and candid and confiftent with 
themfelves, and properly informed of the motives 
and circumftanccs of his condudb, they would not 
fail to honour and applaud him. Though he def- 
pifes the opinions which are adually entertained of 
him, he has the higheft value for thofe which ought 
to be entertained of him. That he miight think 
himfelf worthy of thofe honourable fentiments, 
and, whatever was the idea which other men 
might conceive of his charader, that when he 
fhould put himfelf in their fituation, and con- 
fider, not what was, but what ought to be their 
Opinion, he fhould always have the higheft idea 
of it himfelf, was the great and exalted motive of his 
condudt. As even in the love of virtue, therefore, 
there is ftill fome reference, though not to what is, 
yet to what in reafon and propriety ought to be, the 
opinion of others, there is even in this refpedl fome 
affinity between it, and the love of true glory. There 
is, however, at the fame time, a very great differ- 

Sei5t. II. of Moral Philosophy. 339 

ence between them. The man who ads folely from 
a regard to what is right and fit to be done, from a 
regard to what is the proper objedt of efteem and 
approbation, though thefe fentiments ihould never be 
beftowed upon him, afts from the moft fublime and 
godhke motive which human nature is even capable 
of conceiving. The man, on the other hand, who 
while he defires to merit approbation is at the fame 
time anxious to obtain it, though he too is laudabk 
in the main, yet his motives have a greater mixture 
of human infirmity. He is in danger of being mor- 
tified by the ignorance and injullice of mankind, and 
his happinefs is expofed to the envy of his rivals, and 
the folly of the public. The happinefs of the other, 
on the contrary, is altogether fccure and independent: 
of fortune, and of the caprice of thofe he lives with. 
The contempt and hatred which may be thrown upon 
him by the ignorance of mankind, he confiders as not 
belonging to him, and is not at all mortified by it. 
Mankind defpife and hate him from a falfe notion of 
his charader and condudt. If they knew him bet- 
ter, they would efteem and love him. It is not him 
whom, properly fpeaking, they hate and defpife, but 
another perfon whom they miftake him to be. Our 
friend, whom we ihould meet at a mafquerade in 
the garb of our enemy, would be more diverted than 
mortified, if under that difguife wefhould vent our 
indignation againft him. Such are the fentiments of 
a man of real magnanimity, when expofed to unjufl 
cenfure. It feldom happens, however, that human 
nature arrives at this degree of firmnefs. Though 
none but the weakeft and moft worthlefs of man- 
kind are much delighted with falfe glory, yet, by 
a ftrange inconfiftency, falfe ignominy is often ca^ 
pable of mortifying thofe who appear the moft refo- 
lute and determined. 

Z 2 Df. 

54^ CySysTEMs '-' ^ Part VL 

Dr. Mandeville is not fatisfied with reprefenting 
the frivolous motive of vanity, as the fource of all 
thofe adtions which are commonly accounted virtu- 
ous. He endeavours to point out the imperfedlion 
of human virtue in many other refpecfts. In every 
cafe, he pretends, it falls (hort of that complete felf- 
denial which it pretends to, and, inftead of a con- 
queft, is commonly no more than a concealed indul- 
gence of our paflions. "Wherever our referve with 
regard to pleafure falls fhort of the mod afcetic ab- 
flinence, he treats it as grofs luxury and fenfuality. 
Every thing, according to him, is luxury which ex- 
ceeds what is abfolutely necefiary for the fupport of 
human nature, fo that there is a vice even in the ufe 
of a clean fliirr, or of a convenient habitation. The 
indulgence of the inclination to fex, in the moil law- 
ful union, he confiders as the fame fenfuality with 
the mod hurtful gratification of that pailion, and de- 
rides that temperance and that chaftity which can be 
pradifed at fo cheap a rate. The ingenious fophiftry 
of his reafoning, is here, as upon many other occa- 
fions, covered by the ambiguity of language. There 
are fome of our pailions which have no other names 
except thofe which mark the difagreeable and ofFen- 
five degree. The fpedator is more apt to take no- 
tice of them in this degree than in any other. When 
they fhock his own fentiments, when they give him 
fome fort of antipathy and uneafinefs, he is necefla- 
rily obliged to attend to them, and is from thence 
naturally led to give them a name. When they fall 
in with the natural (late of his own mind, he is very 
apt to overlook them altogether, and either gives 
them no name at all, or, if he gives them any, it is 
one which marks rather the fubjedlion and reftraint 
of the paflion than the degree which it flill is allowed 


Sed. II. of Moral Philosophy. 341 

to fubfift in, after it is fo fubjeded and reflrained. 
Thus the common names of the * love of pleafure, 
and of the love of fex, denote a vicious and ofienfive 
degree of thofe pafiions. The words temperance 
and chaftity, on the other hand, feem to mark rather 
the reftraint and fubjcdbion which they are kept un- 
der, than the degree which they are dill allowed 
to fubfift in. When he can fhow, therefore, that 
they ftill fubfift in fome degree, he imagines, he has 
entirely demolilhed the reality of the virtues of tem- 
perance and chaftity, and fhown them to be mere 
impofitions upon the inattention and fimplicity of 
mankind. Thofe virtues, however, do not require 
an entire infenfibiiity to the objeds of the painons 
which they mean to govern. They only aim at re- 
ftraining the violence of thofe paftions fo far as not to 
hurt the individual, and neither difturb nor offend 
the fociety. 

It is the great fallacy of Dr. Mandeville's book -f 
to reprefent every pafiion as wholly vicious, which is 
fo in any degree and in any diredlion. It is thus that 
he treats every thing as vanity which has any reference, 
either to what are, or to what ought to be the fenti- 
ments of others : and it is by means of this fophi- 
ftry, that he eftablifhes his favourite conclufion, that 
private vices are public benelits. If the love of mag- 
nificence, a tafte for the elegant arts and improve- 
ments of human life, for whatever is agreeable in 
drefs, furniture, or equipage, for architedure, ftatu- 
ary, painting, and mufic, is to be regarded as luxury, 
fenfuality and oftentation, even in thofe whofe fitu- 
ation allows, without any inconveniency, the indul- 

Z 3 gence 

* Luxury and lull. f Fable of the Bees. 

54-- 0/ S y s T E M s Part VL 

gence of thofe pafTions, it is certain that luxury, fen- 
luality, and oftentation are public benefits : fince, 
without the qualities upon which he thinks proper to 
beftow fuch opprobrious names, the arts of refine- 
ment could never find encouragement, and muft 
ianguifh for want of employment. Some popular 
afcetic do6trines which had been current before his 
time, and which placed virtue in the entire extir- 
pation and annihilation of all our paOlons, were the 
real foundation of this licentious fyilem. It was eafy 
for Dr. Mandeville to prove, firll, that this entire 
conqueft never adtually took place among men ; and 
fecondly, that, if it was to take place univerfally, it 
would be pernicious to fociety, by putting an end to 
all induflry and commerce, and in a manner to 
the whole bufinefs of human life. By the firft of 
thefe propofitions he feemed to prove that there was 
no real virtue, and that what pretended to be fuch, 
was a mere cheat and impofition upon mankind ; and 
by the fecond, that private vices were public bene- 
fits, fince without them no fociety could profper or 

Such is the fyftem of Dr. Mandeville, which once 
made fo much noife in the world, and which, though 
perhaps, it never gave occafion to more vice than 
what would have been without it, at lead taught 
that vice, which arofe from other caufes, to appear 
with more effrontery, and to avow the corruption of 
its motives with a profligate audacioufnefs which had 
never been heard of before. 

But how deftrudtive foever this fyftem may appear, 
it could never have impofed upon fo great a number 
of perfons, nor have occafioned fo general an alarm 


Se6t. II. (?/ Moral Philosophy. 343 

among thofe who are the friends of better principles, 
had it not in fome refpeds bordered upon the truth. 
A fyftem of natural philofophy may appear very 
plaufible, and be for a long time very generally re- 
ceived in the world, and yet have no foundation in 
nature, nor any fort of refemblance to the truth. 
The vortices of Des Cartes were regarded by a 
very ingenious nation, for near a century toge- 
ther, as a mod fatisfadory account of the revoluti- 
ons of the heavenly bodies. Yet it has been demon- 
ilrated, to the convidtion of all miankind, that thefe 
pretended cauies of thofe wonderful effeds, not only 
do not adually exift, but are utterly impofllble, and 
if they did exift, could produce no fuch effefls as are 
afcribed to them. But it is otherwife with fyftems of 
moral philofophy, and an author who pretends to 
account for the origin of our moral fentiments, can- 
not deceive us fo grofsly, nor depart fo very far from 
all refemblance to the truth. When a traveller gives 
an account of fome diftant country, he may impofe 
upon our credulity the moft groundlefs and abfurd 
fidlions as the moft certain matters of fad. But 
when a perfon pretends to inform us of what pafTes 
in our neighbourhood, and of the affairs of the very 
parifti which we live in, though here too, if we are fo 
carelefs as not to examine things with our own eyes, 
he may deceive us in many refpedls, yet the greateft 
falfehoods which he impofes upon us muft bear fome 
refemblance to the truth, and muft even have a con- 
fiderable mixture of truth in them. An author who 
treats of natural philofophy, and pretends to ailign 
the caufes of the great phaenomena of the univerfe, 
pretends to give an account of the affairs of a very 
diftant country, concerning which he may tell us 
what he pleafes, and as long as his narration keeps 
within the bounds of feeming poffibility, he need not 

Z 4 defpair 

344 0/ Systems Part VI. 

defpair of gaining our belief. But when he propofes 
to explain the origin of our defires and affections, of 
our fentiments of approbation and difapprobation, he 
pretends to give an account, not only of the affairs 
of the very parilh that we live in, but of our own 
domeftic concerns. Though here too, like indolent 
mafters who put their truft in a fteward who deceives 
them, we are very liable to be impofed upon, yet we 
are incapable of pafTing any account which does not 
preferve fome little regard to the truth. Some of the 
lirticles, at lead, mud be juft, and even thofe which 
are moft overcharged muft have had fome foundati- 
on, otherwife the fraud would be detected even by 
that carelefs infpeflion which we are difpofed to give. 
The author who Ihould aflign, as the caufe of any- 
natural fentiment, fome principle which neither had 
any connexion with it, nor refembled any other prin- 
ciple which had fome fuch connexion, would appear 
abfurd and ridiculous to the moft injudicious and un- 
experienced reader. 


Se6l. III. ^ Moral Philosophy, 



Of the difTerent fyftems which have been formed 
concerning the principle of approbation. 


virtue, the next queftion of importance in Moral 
Philofophy, is concerning the principle of approba- 
tion, concerning the power or faculty of the mind 
which renders certain charaders agreeable or difa- 
greeable to us, makes us prefer one tenour of con- 
duct to another, denominate the one right and the 
other wrong, and confider the one as the obje6l of 
approbation, honour, and reward •, the other as that 
of blame, cenfure, and punifhment. 

Three different accounts have been given of this 
principle of approbation. According to fome, we 
approve and difapprove both of our own adions and 
of thofe of others, from felf-love only, or from fome 
view of their tendency to our own happinefs or dif- 
advantage -, according to others, reafon, the fame fa- 
culty by which we diftinguifh between truth and 
falfehood, enables us to diftinguifh between what is 
fit and unfit both in adlions and affedions : accord- 
ing to others this diftindlion is altogether the effed: 
of immediate fentiment and feeling, and arifes from 
the fatisfaftion or difgufl with which the view of 


346 Of Systems Part VI. 

certain adlions or afFedlions infpires us. Self-love, 
reafon, and fentiment, therefore, are the three dif- 
ferent fources which have been afiigned for the prin- 
ciple of approbation. 

Before 1 proceed to give an account of thofe dif- 
ferent fyftems, I muft obferve, that the determina- 
tion of this fccond queftion, though of the greateft 
importance in fpeculation, is of none in pradlice. 
The queftion concerning the nature of virtue necef- 
farily has fome influence upon our notions of right 
and wrong in many particular cafes. That concern- 
ing the principle of approbation can pollibly have no 
fuch effed. To examine from what contrivance or 
mechanifm within, thofe different notions or (enti- 
ments arife, is a mere matter of philofophical curio- 


Of thofe fyfiems which deduce the principle of approba- 
iim from felfloDe, 

JL H O S E who account for the principle of ap- 
probation from felf-love, do not ail account for it in 
the fame manner, and there is a good deal of confu- 
fion and inaccuracy in all their different fyllems. 
According to Mr. Hobbes, and many of his follow- 
ers, * man is driven to take refuge in fociety, not 
by any natural love which he bears to his own kind, 
but becaufe without the affiftance of others he is in- 
capable of fubfifting with eafe or fafety. Society, 


* PufFendoriF. Mandeville. 

Se6b. III. of Moral Philosophy. 347 

upon this account, becomes necelTary to him, and 
whatever tends to its fupport and welfare, he confi- 
ders as having a remote tendency to his own intered, 
and, on the contrary, whatever is likely to didurb 
or deftroy it, he regards as in feme meafure hurtful 
or pernicious to himfelf. Virtue is the great fupport, 
and vice the great difturber of human fociety. The 
former, therefore, is agreeable, and the latter ofFen- 
five to every man ; as from the one he forefees the 
profperity, and from the other the ruin and diforder 
of what is fo neceflary for the comfort and fecurity 
of his exiftence. 

That the tendency of virtue to promote, and of 
vice to didurb the order of fociety, when we confider 
it coolly and philofophically, refleds a very great 
beauty upon the one, and a very great deformity 
upon the other, cannot, as I have obferved upon a 
former occafion, be called in quedion. Human fo- 
ciety, when we contemplate it in a certain abdra(5l 
and philofophical light, appears like a great, an im- 
menfe machine, whofe regular and harmonious move- 
ments produce a thoufand agreeable ededs. As in 
any other beautiful and noble machine that was the 
produdlion of human art, whatever tended to ren- 
der its movements more fmooth and eafy, would de- 
rive a beauty from this effed, and, on the contrary, 
whatever tended to obdrudl them would difpleafe 
upon that account : fo virtue, which is, as it were, 
the fine polidi to the wheels of fociety, necefiarily 
pleafes ; while vice, like the vile rud, which makes 
them jar and grate upon one another, is as necedfarily 
off*enfive. This account, therefore, of the origin of 
approbation and difapprobation, fo far as it derives 
them from a regard to the order of fociety, runs into 


^^4S 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL 

that principle which gives beauty to utility, and 
which I have explained upon a former occafion j and 
it is from thence that this fyftem derives all that ap- 
pearance of probability which it pofTefles. When 
thofe authors defcribe the innumerable advantages of 
a cultivated and focial, above a favage and folitary 
life ; when they expatiate upon the necefiity of vir- 
tue and good order for the maintenance of the one, 
and demonftrate how infallibly the prevalence of 
vice and difobedience to the laws tend to bring back 
the other, the reader is charmed with the novelty 
and grandeur of thofe views which they open to him : 
he fees plainly a new beauty in virtue, and a new 
deformity in vice, which he had never taken notice 
of before, and is commonly fo delighted with the 
difcovery, that he feldom takes time to refiedl:, that 
this political view, having never occurred to him in 
his life before, cannot poiTibly be the ground of that 
approbation and difapprobation with which he has 
always been accuftomed to confider thofe different 

When thofe authors, on the other hand, deduce 
from felf-love the intereft which we take in the wel- 
fare of fociety, and the efleem which upon that ac- 
count we bedow upon virtue, they do not mean, that 
when we in this age applaud the virtue of Cato, and 
deteft the villainy of Catiline, our fentiments are in- 
fluenced by the notion of any benefit we receive from 
the one, or of any detriment we fuffer from the 
other. It was not becauie the profperity or fubver- 
fion of fociety, in thofe remote ages and nations, 
was apprehended to have any influence upon our 
happinefs or mifery in the prefent times •, that ac- 
cording to thofe philofophers, we efteemed the vir- 

Se6l. III. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 349 

tuous, and blamed the diforderly charadler. They 
never imagined that our fentiments were influenced 
by any benefit or damage which we fuppofed a6tual- 
ly to redound to us, from either; but by that which 
might have redounded to us, had we lived in thofe dif- 
tant ages and countries; or by that which might ftill 
redound to us, if in our own times'we fhould meet 
with charaders of the fame kind. The idea, in fiiorr, 
which thofe authors were groping about, but which 
they were never able to unfold diflindly, was that 
indireft fympathy which we feel with the gratitude 
or refentment of thofe who received the benefit or fuf- 
fered the damage refulting from fuch oppofite charac- 
ters : and it was this which they were indiftindlly 
pointing at, when they faid, that it was not the 
thought of what we had gained or fuffered which 
prompted our applaufe or indignation, but the con- 
ception or imagination of what we might gain or 
fufFer if we were to a6l in fociety with fuch afTo- 

Sympathy, however, cannot, in any fenfe, be re- 
garded as a felfifli principle. When I fympathize 
with your forrow or your indignation, it may be 
pretended, indeed, that my emotion is founded in 
ielf-love, becaufe it arifes from bringing your cafe 
home to myfeif, from putting myfelf in your fitua- 
tion, and thence conceiving what I fhould feel in the 
like circumftances. But though fympathy is very 
properly faid to arife from an imaginary change of 
fituations with the perfon principally concerned, yet 
this imaginary change is not fuppofed to happen to 
me in my own perfon and charader, but in that of 
the perfon with whom I fympathize. When I con- 
dole with you for the lofs of your only fon, in order 
to enter into your grief, I do not confider what I, a 


35^ ' O/'Systems Part VI, 

perfon of fuch a character and profeflion, fhould 
fuffer, if I had a fon, and if that fon was unfortu- 
nately to die : but I confider what T fhould fuffer if I 
was really you^ and I not only change circumflances 
with you, but I change perfons and characfters. My 
grief, therefore, is entirely upon your account, and 
not in the leaft upon my own. It is not, therefore, 
in the leafl felfiih. How can that be regarded as a 
felfifh pafTion, which does not arife even from the 
imagination of any thing that has befallen, or that 
relates to myfelf, in my own proper perfon and cha- 
rafler, but which is entirely occupied about what 
relates to you ? A man may fympathize with a wo- 
man in child-bed •, though it is impoffible that he 
fhould conceive himfelf as fuffering her pains in his 
own proper perfon and chara6ler. That whole ac- 
count of human nature, however, which deduces 
all fentiments and affedions from felf-love, which 
has made fo much noife in the world, but which, fo 
far as I know, has never yet been fully and diflindly 
explained, feems to me to have arifen from fome 
confufed mifapprehenfion of the fyftem of fympathy. 


Of thofe fyftems which make reafon the principle of 


A T is well known to have been the dodlrine of 


Mr. Hobbes, that a ftate of nature, is a (late of war •, 
and that antecedent to the inflitution of civil go- 
vernment, there could be no fafe or peaceable foci- 
cty among men. To preferve fociety, therefore, ac- 


Se6t. III. ^ Moral Phi losophy. ^ 351 

cording to him, was to fupport civil government, and 
to deftroy civil government was the fame thing as to 
put an end to fociecy. Bat the exiftence of civil go- 
vernment depends upon the obedience that is paid 
to the fupreme magiftrate. The moment he lofes 
his authority, all government is at an end. As felf- 
prefervation, therefore, teaches men to applaud 
whatever tends to promote the welfare of fociety, 
and to blame whatever is likely to hurt it j fo the 
fame principle, if they would think and fpeak con- 
fiftently, ought to teach them to applaud upon all 
ocafions obedience to the civil magiftrate, and to 
blame all difobedience and rebellion. The very 
ideas of laudable and blameable, ought to be the 
fame with thofe of obedience and difobedience. The 
laws of the civil magiftrate, therefore, ought to be 
regarded as the fole ultimate ftandards of what was 
juft and unjuft, of what was right and wrong. 

It was the avowed intention of Mr. Hobbes, by 
propagating thefe notions, to fubjedl the confciences 
of men immediately to the civil, and not to the ec- 
clefiaftical powers, whofe turbulence and ambition, 
he had been taught, by the example of his own 
times, to regard as the principal fource of the dif- 
orders of fociety. His doftrine, upon this account, 
was peculiarly offenfive to Theologians, who accord- 
ingly did not fail to vent their indignation againft 
him with great afperity and bitternefs. It was like- 
wife offenfive to all found moralifts, as it fuppofed 
that there was no natural diftindlion between right 
and wrong, that thefe were mutable and changeable, 
and depended upon the mere arbitrary will of the 
civil magiftrate. This account of things, therefore, 


252 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VI. 

was attacked from all quarters, and by all forts of 
;, weapons, by fober reafon as well as by furious de» 

In order to confute fo odious a dodrine, it was 
necefTary to prove, that antecedent to all law or 
pofitive inflitution, the mind was naturally endowed 
with a faculty, by which it diftinguifhed in certain 
adions and affedions, the qualities of right, laudable, 
and virtuous, and in others thofe of wrong, blame- 
able, and vicious. 

Law, it was juitly obferved by Dr. Cudworth, * 
could not be the original fource of thofe didindions ; 
fince upon the fuppofition of fuch a law, ic muft 
either be right to obey it, and wrong to difobey it, 
or indifferent whether we obeyed it, or difobeyed it. 
That law which ic was indifferent whether we obeyed 
or difobeyed, could nor, it was evident, be the fource 
of thofe diftindlions •, neither could that v;hich it was 
right to obey and wrong to difobey, fince even this 
ftill fuppofcd the antecedent notions or ideas of right 
and wrong, and that obedience to the law was con- 
formable to the idea of right, and difobedience to 
that of wrong. 

Since the mind, therefore, had a notion of thofe 
diflindlions antecedent to all law, it feemed necefTa- 
rily to follow, that it derived this notion from rea- 
fon, which pointed out the difference between right 
and wrong, in the fame manner in which it did that 
between truth and falfehocd : and this conclufion, 
which though true in fome refpeds, is rather hafty 


*' Immutable Morality, 1. i. 

Sedl. III. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 353 

in others, was more eafily received at a time when 
the abftradl fcience of human nature was but in its 
infancy, and before the diftindt offices and powers of 
the different f^iculties of the human mind had been 
carefully examined and diftinguifhed from one ano- 
ther. When this controverfy with Mr. Hobbes was 
carried on with thegreatcfl warmth and kcennefs, no 
other faculty had been thought of from which any 
fuch ideas could poflibly be fuppofed to arife. It 
became at this time, therefore, the popular dodbrine, 
that the effence of virtue and vice did not confift in 
the conformity or difagreement of human adlions 
with the law of a fuperior, but in their conformity or 
difagreement with reaibn, which was thus confidered 
as the original fource and principle of approbation 
and difapprobation. 

That virtue confifts in conformity to reafon, is 
true in feme refpedls, and this faculty may veryjuftly 
be confidered, as in fome fenfe, the fource and prin- 
ciple of approbation and difapprobation, and of all 
folid judgments concerning right and wrong. It is 
by reafon that we difcover thofe general rules of juf- 
tice by which we ought to regulate our adtions : and 
it is by the fame faculty that we form thofe more 
vague and indeterminate ideas of what is prudent, of 
what is decent, of what is generous or noble, which 
we carry conftantly about with us, and according to 
which we endeavour, as well as we can, to model 
the tenour of our condudl. The general maxims of 
morality are formed, like all other general maxims, 
from experience and indudion. We obferve in a 
great variety of particular cafes what pleafcs or dif- 
pleafes our moral faculties, what thefe approve or 
difapprove of, and, by indu(5tion from this experi- 

A a ence. 

354 Of Systems Part VL 

cnce, we eftablifh thofe general rules. But indudlion 
is always regarded as one of the operations of reafon. 
From reafon, therefore, we are very properly faid 
to derive all thofe general maxims and ideas. It is 
by thefe, however, that we regulate the greater part 
of our moral judgments, which would be extremely 
uncertain and precarious if they depended altogether 
upon what is liable to fo many variations as immedi- 
ate fentiment and feeling, which the different ftates 
of health and humour are capable of altering fo 
eflentially. As our moll folid judgments, therefore, 
with regard to right and wrong, are regulated by 
maxims and ideas derived from an indudlion of rea- 
fon, virtue may very properly be faid to confifl in a 
conformity to reafon, and fo far this faculty may be 
confidered as the fource and principle of approbation 
and difapprobation. 

But though reafon is undoubtedly the fource of 
the general rules of morality, and of all the moral 
judgments which we form by means of them; it is 
altogether abfurd and unintelligible to fuppofe that 
the firft perceptions of right and wrong can be derived 
from reafon, even in thofe particular cafes upon the 
experience of which the general rules are formed. 
Thefe firft perceptions, as well all other experiments 
upon which any general rules are founded, cannot be 
the objeft of reafon, but of immediate fenfe and 
feeling. It is by finding in a vaft variety of inftances 
that one tenour of conduct conftantly pleafe* in a 
certain manner, and that another as conftantly dif- 
pleafes the mind, that we form the general rules of 
morality. But reafon cannot render any particular 
objeft either agreeable or difagreeable to the mind 
for its own fake. Reafon may fhow that this obje^ 


Se(5l. If L of Moral Philosophy. 355 

is the means of obtaining forne other which is natu- 
rally eitheV pleafing or difpleafing, and in this man- 
ner may render it either agreeable or difagreeable for 
the fake of fomething ^\{^, But nothing can be 
agreeable or difagreeable for its own fake, which is 
not rendered fuch by immediate fenfc and feeling. 
If virtue, therefore, in every particular inftance, 
neceflarily pleafes for its own fake, and if vice as 
certainly difpleafes the mind, it cannot bereafon, but 
immediate fenfe and feeling, which, in this manner, 
reconciles us to the one, and alienates us from the 

Pleafure and pain are the great objed:s of defirc 
and averfion : but thefe are didinguifhed not by 
reafon, but by immediate fenfe and feeling. If vir- 
tue, therefore, is defirable for its own fake, and if 
vice is, in the fame manner, the objedl of averfion, 
it cannot be reafon which originally didin^uifhcs 
thofe different qualities, but immediate fenfe and 

As reafon, however, in a certain fenfe, may juftly 
be confidered as tlie principle of approbation and dif- 
approbation, thefc fentiments were, through inat- 
tention, long regarded as originally flowing from the 
operations of this faculty. Dr. Hutchefon had the 
merit of being the firft who diftinguifhed with any 
degree of precifion in what refpedt all moral diftindli- 
ons may be faid to arife from reafon, and in what 
refpedl they are founded upon immediate fenfe and 
feeling. In his illuftrations upon the moral fenfe he 
has explained this fo fully, and, in my opinion, fo 
unanfwerably, that, if any controverfy is flill kept 
up about this fubjedl, I can impute it to nothing, 

A a 2 but 

^^e 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL 

but either to inattention to what that gentleman has 
written, or to a luperftitious attachment to certain 
forms of expreffion, a weaknefs not very uncommon 
among the learned, efpecially in fubjefts fo deeply 
interefting as the prefent, in which a man of virtue 
is often loth to abandon, even the propriety of a 
fingle phrafe which he has been accuftomed to. 


Of thofe fyftems which make fentiment the principle o^ 

approbation, ^ 

HOSE fyftems which make fentiment the 
principle of approbation may be divided into two 
different clafTes. 

I. According to fome the principle of approbation 
IS founded upon a fentiment of a peculiar nature,, 
upon a particular power of perception exerted by the 
mind at the view of certain adlions or affedlions y 
fome of which affeding this faculty in an agreeable 
and others in a difagreeable manner, the former are 
flampt with the charadlers of right, laudable, and 
virtuous •, the latter with thofe of wrong, blameable 
and vicious. This fentiment being of a peculiar 
nature diftindt from every other, and the effed of a 
particular power of perception, they give ic a parti» 
cular name, and call it a moral fenfe. 

II. According to others, in order to account for 
the principle of approbation, there is no occafion 
for fuppofing any new power of perception which 

Sedl. III. /?/ Moral Philosophy. 357 

had never been heard of before : Nature, they ima- 
gine, adls here, as in all other cafes, with the ftridleft 
ceconomy, and produces a multitude of eifedls from 
one and the fame caufe ; and fympathy, a power which 
has always been taken notice of, and with which the 
mind is manifeftly endowed, is, they think, fuffici- 
ent to account for all the effedls afcribed to this pecu- 
liar faculty. 

I. Dr. Hutchefon * had been at great pains to 
prove that the principle of approbation was not 
founded on felf-love. He had demonftrated too that 
it could not arife from any operation of reafon. No- 
thing remained, he thought, but to fuppofe it a fa- 
culty of a peculiar kind, with which Nature had en- 
dowed the human mind, in order to produce this one 
particular and important effedt. • When felf-love and 
reafon were both excluded, it did not occur to him 
that there was any other known faculty of the mind 
which could in any refped anfwer this purpofe. 

This new power of perception he called a moral 
fenfe, and fuppofed it to be fomewhat analogous to 
the external fenfes. As the bodies around us, by 
affedling thefe in a certain manner, appear to pofTefs 
the different qualities of found, tafte, odour, colour*, 
fo the various affedlions of the human mind, by 
touching this particular faculty in a certain manner, 
appear to poffefs the different qualities of amiable 
and odious, of virtuous and vicious, of right and 

The various fenfes or powers of perception, f from 
which the human mind derives all its fimple ideas, 

A a 3 were, 

* Inquiry concerning Virtue. f Treatife of the paffions. 

358 0/ S y s t'£ m s Part VL 

were, according to this fydem, of two different kinds, 
of which the one were called the dired or antecedent, 
the other, the reflex or confequent fenfes. The di- 
redl fenfes were thofe faculties from which the mind 
derived the perception of fuch fpecies of things as 
did not prefuppofe the antecedent perception of any 
other. Thus founds and colours were objedls of the 
dired fenfes. To hear a found or to fee a colour docs 
not prefuppofe the antecedenj; perception of any other 
quality or objedt. The reflex or confequent fenfes, 
on the other hand, were thofe faculties from which 
the mind derived the perception of fuch fpecies of 
things as prefuppofed the antecedent perception of 
fome other. Thus harmony and beauty were objedls 
of the reflex fenfes. In order to perceive the har- 
mony of a found, or the beauty of a colour, we mud 
firfl: perceive the found or the colour. The moral 
fenfe was confidered as a faculty of this kind. That 
faculty, which Mr. Locke calls reflexion, and from 
which he derived the fimple ideas of the difl-erent 
pafllons and emotions of the human mind, was, ac- , 
cording to Dr. Hutchefon, a dired internal fenfe. 
That faculty again by which we perceived the beauty 
or deformity, the virtue or vice of thofe different 
paffions and emotions, was a reflex, internal fenfe. 

Dr. Hutchefon endeavoured flill further to fupporc 
thisdodrine, by (hewing that it was agreeable to the 
analogy of nature, and that the mind was endowed 
with a variety of other reflex fenfes exadlly fimilar to 
the moral fenfe i fuch as a fenfe of beauty and de- 
formity in external objeds ; a public fenfe, by which 
we fympathize with the happinefs or mifery of our 


Se6b. III. <?/ Moral Phi LOSOPHY. 359 

fellow-creatures ^ a fenfe of fhame and honour, and 
a fenfe of ridicule. 

But notwithflanding all the pains which this in- 
genious philofopher has taken to prove that the prin- 
ciple of approbation is founded in a peculiar power 
of perception, fomewhat analogous to the external 
fenfes, there are fome confequences, which he ac- 
knowledges to follow from this dodlrine, that will, 
perhaps, be regarded by many as a fufficient confu- 
tation of it. The qualities, he allows, * which be- 
long to the objects of any fenfe, cannot, without the 
greateft abfurdity, be afcribed to the fenfe itfelf. Who 
ever thought of calling the fenfe of feeing black or 
white, the fenfe of hearing loud or low, or the fenfe 
of tailing fweet or bitter ? And, according to him, 
it is equally abfurd to call our moral faculties vir- 
tuous or vicious, morally good or evil. Thefe quali- 
ties belong to the objedls of thofe faculties, not to 
the faculties themfelves. If any man, therefore, was 
fo abfurdly conftituted as to approve of cruelty and 
injuftice as the higheft virtues, and to difapprove of 
equity and humanity as the mod pitiful vices, fuch 
a conftitution of mind might indeed be regarded as 
inconvenient both to the individual and to the foci- 
cty, and hkewife as (trange, furprifing, and unnatu- 
ral in itfelf*, but it could not, without the greateft 
abfurdity, be denominated vicious or morally evil. 

Yet furely if we faw any man fhouting with ad- 
miration and applaufe at a barbarous and unmerited 
execution, which fome infolent tyrant had ordered, 

A a 4 we 

♦ Illuftrations upon the Moral Senfe. Sc6\. i. p. 237, ct feq. 
Third Edition, 


3^o Of Systems Part VL 

we fhould not think we were guilty of any great ab- 
furdity in denominating this behaviour vicious and 
morally evil in the highefl degree, though it exprefled 
nothing but depraved moral faculties, or an abfurd 
approbation of this horrid adion, as of what was 
noble, magnanimous, and great. Our heart, I ima- 
gine, at the fight of fuch a fpedator, would forget 
for a while its fympathy wiih the fufferer, and feel 
nothing but horror and deteflation, at the thought of 
fo execrable a wretch. We Ihould abominate him 
even more than the tyrant who might be goaded on 
by the ftrong paiTions of jealoufy, fear, and refent- 
ment, and upon that account be more excufable. 
But the fentiments of the fpedlator would appear al- 
together without caufe or motive, and therefore moft 
perfedly and completely deteltable. There is no 
perverfion of fentiment or afFedion \vhich our heart 
would be more averfe to enter into, or which it would 
rejedl with greater hatred and indignation than one 
of this kind ; and fo far from regarding luch a con- 
llitution of mind as being merely fomething (Irange 
or inconvenient, and not in any refped vicious or 
morally evil, we fhould rather confider it as the very 
lad and mod dreadful flage of moral depravity. 

Corred moral fentiments, on the contrary, natu- 
rally appear in fome degree laudable and morally 
good. The man, whofe cenfure and applaule arc 
upon all occafions fuited with the greateft accuracy 
to the value or unworthinefs of the objed, feems to 
deferve a degree even of moral approbation. We 
admire the delicate precifion of his moral fentiments : 
they lead our own judgments, and, upon account of 
their uncommon and furprifing juftnefs, they even 
excite our wonder and applaufe. We cannot indeed 


Se6l. III. <?/ Moral Philosophy. ^6i 

be always fure that the conducft of fuch a perfon 
would be in any rcfped" correfpondent to the preci- 
fion and accuracy of his judgments concerning the 
condudl of others. Virtue requires habit and refo- 
lution of mind, as well as delicacy of fentiment -, 
and unfortunately the former qualities are fometimes 
wanting, where the latter is in the greateft perfedion. 
This difpofition of mind, however, though it may 
fometimes be attended with imp^rfedions, is incom- 
patible with any thing that is grofsly criminal, and 
is the happieft foundation upon which the fuperflruc- 
ture of perfed virtue can be built. There are many 
men who mean very well, and ferioufly purpole to do 
what they think their duty, who notwithftanding are 
difagreeable on account of the coarfenefs of their 
moral fentiments. 

It may be faid, perhaps, that though the princi- 
ple of approbation is not founded upon any power 
of perception that is in any refpedt analogous to the 
external fenfes, it may dill be founded upon a pecu- 
liar fentiment which anfwers this one particular pur- 
pofe and no other. Approbation and difapproba- 
tion, it may be pretended, are certain feelings or 
emotions which arife in the mind upon the view of 
different charaders and adions ; and as refcntment 
might be called a fenfe of injuries, or gratitude a 
fcnfe of benefits, fo thefe may very properly receive 
the name of a fenfe of right and wrong, or of a mo- 
ral fenfe. 

But this account of things, it may not be 
liable to the fame objections with the foregoing, 
is expofed to others which are equally unanfwerable. 


362 Of Systems Part VL 

Firil of ail, whatever variations any particular 
emotion may undergo, it ftill preferves the general 
features which diftinguifh it to be an emotion of 
fuch a kind, and thefe general features arc always 
more ftriking and remarkable than any variation 
which it may undergo in particular cafes. Thus an- 
ger is an emotion of a particular kind : and accord- 
ingly its general features are always more diftin- 
guifhable than all the variations it undergoes in par- 
ticular cafes. Anger againft a man, is, no doubt, 
fomewhat different from anger againft a woman, 
and that again from anger againft a child. In each 
of thofe three cafes, the general paffion of anger re- 
ceives a different modification from the particular 
charadler of its objeft, as may eafily be obferved by 
the attentive. But ftill the general features of the 
paflion predominate in all thefe cafes. To diftin- 
guifh thefe, requires no nice obfervation : a very de- 
licate attention, on the contrary, is neceffary to difco- 
ver their variations : every body takes notice of the 
former : fcarce any body obferves the latter. If ap- 
probation and dlfapprobation, therefore, were, like 
gratitude and refentment^ emotions of a particular 
kind, diftindl from every other, we ftiould expe6b 
that in all the variations which either of them might 
undergo, it would ftill retam the general features 
which mark it to be an emotion of fuch a particular 
kind, clear, plain, and eafily diftinguiftiable. But 
in fadl it happens quite otherwife. If we attend to 
what we really feel when upon different occafions we 
cither approve or difapprove, we Ihall find that our 
emotion in one cafe is often totally different from 
that in another, and that no common features can 
poffibly be difcovered between them. Thus the ap- 

Sed. III. of Moral Philosophy. 363 

probation with which we view a tender, delicate, 
and humane fentiment, is quite different from that 
with which we are ftruck by one that appears great, 
daring, and magnanimous. Our approbation of 
both may, upon different occafions, be perfedl and 
entire \ but we are foftened by the one, and we are 
elevated by the other, and there is no fort of re- 
femblance between the emotions which they excite 
in us. But, according to that fyftem which I have 
been endeavouring to eftablifh, this mud neceffarily 
be the cafe. As the emotions of the pcrfon whom 
we approve of, are, in thofe two cafes, quite oppo» 
fite to one another, and as our approbation arifes 
from fympathy with thofe oppofite emotions, what 
we feel upon the one occafion, can have no fort of 
refemblance to what we feel upon the other. But 
this could not happen if approbation confided in a 
peculiar emotion which had nothing in common with 
the fentiments we approved of, but which arofe at 
the view of thofe fentiments, like any other pafllon 
at the view of its proper obje6t. The fame thing 
holds true with regard to difapprobation. Our 
horror for cruelty has no fort of refemblance to our 
contempt for mean-fpiritednefs. It is quite a dif- 
ferent fpecies of difcord which we feel at the view 
of thofe two different vices, between our minds 
and thofe of the perfon whofe fentiments and be- 
haviour we confider. 

Secondly, I have already obferved, that not only 
the different palfions or affedlions of the human mind 
which are approved or difapproved of appear mo- 
rally good or evil, but that proper and improper ap- 
probation appear, to our natural fentiments, to be 
ftampt with the fame chara(5ters. I would afk, 


364 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VI. 

therefore, how it is, that, according to this fyftem, 
we approve or difapprove of proper or improper 
approbation. To this queftion, there is, I imagine, 
but one reafonable anfwer, which can poflibly be 
given. It mud be faid, that when the approbation 
v/ith which our neighbour regards the condudt of a 
third perfon coincides with our own, we approve of 
his approbation, and confider it as, in fomemeafure, 
morally good •, and that on the contrary, when it 
does not coincide with our own fentiments, we dif- 
approve of it, and confider it as, in fome meafure, 
morally evil. It mud be allowed, therefore, that, 
at leaft in this one cafe, the coincidence or oppofition 
of fentiments, between the obferver and the perfon 
obferved, conftitutes moral approbation or difappro- 
bation. And if it does fo in this one cafe, I would 
afk, why not in every other? to what purpofe ima- 
gine a new power of perception in order to account 
for thofe fentiments ? 

Againfi: every account of the principle of appro- 
bation, which makes it depend upon a peculiar fen- 
timent, diftind from every other, I would objedl ; 
that it is ftrange that this fentimenr, which Provi- 
dence undoubtedly intended to be the governing 
principle of human nature, fliould hitherto have 
been fo little taken notice of, as not to have got a 
name in any language. The word moral fenfe is of 
very late formation, and cannot yet be confidered as 
making part of the Englifh tongue. The word ap- 
probation has but within thefc few years been ap- 
propriated to denote peculiarly any thing of this 
kind. In propriety of language we approve of 
whatever is entirely to our fatisfadlion, of the form 
of a building, of the contrivance of a machine, of 


Se(^. III. of Moral Philosophy. 365 

the flavour of a diOi of meat. The word confcience 
does not immediately denote any moral faculty by 
which we approve or difapprove. Confcience fup- 
pofes, indeed, ihe exiftence of fome fuch faculty, 
and properly fignifies our confcioufnefs of having 
adled agreeably or contrary to its diredions. When 
love, hatred, joy, Ibrrow, gratitude, refentment, with 
fo many other paflions which are all fuppofed to be 
the fubjeds of this principle, have made themfelves 
confiderable enough to get titles to know them by, 
is it not furprifing that the fovereign of them all 
fhould hitherto have been fo little heeded, that, a 
few philofophers excepted, no body has yet thought 
it worth while to bellow a name upon it ? 

"When we approve of any charadler or adlion, 
the fentiments which we feel, are, according to the 
foregoing fyftem, derived from four fources, which 
are in fome refpeds different from one another. 
Firft, we fympathize with the motives of the ao-ent; 
fecondly, we enter into the gratitude of thofe who 
receive the benefit of his anions ; thirdly, we ob- 
ferve that his condudt has been agreeable to the ge- 
neral rules by which thofe two fympathies generallv 
a6t; and, la(l of all, when we confider fuch ac- 
tions as making part of a fyftem of behaviour which 
tends to promote the happinefs either of the indivi- 
dual or of the fociety, they appear to derive a beauty ^ 
from this utility, not unlike that which we afcribe 
to any well contrived machine. After deducing, 
in any one particular cafe, all that muft be acknow- 
ledged to proceed from fome one or other of thefe four 
principles, I fhould be glad to know what remains, 
and I lliall freely allow this overplus to be afcribed 
to a moral fenfe, or to any other peculiar faculty, 


366 0/ Systems Part VL 

provided any body will afccrtain precifely what this 
overplus is. It might be expedted, perhaps, that 
if there was any fuch peculiar principle, iuch as 
this moral fenfe is luppofed to be, we (hould feel it, 
in fome particular cafes, feparated and detached from 
every other, as we often feel joy, forrow, hope, 
and fear, pure and unmixed with any other emotion. 
This however, I imagine, cannot even be pretended. 
I have never heard any inftance alleged in which 
this principle could be faid to exert iifelf alone and 
unmixed with fympathy or antipathy, with gratitude 
or refentment, with the perception of the agreement 
or difao^reement of any adlion to an eftabliOied rule, 
or laft of all with that general tafle for beauty and 
order which is excited by inanimated as well as by 
animated objedts. 

II. There is another fyftem which attempts to ac- 
count for the origin of our moral fentiments from 
fympathy diftindt from that which I have been en- 
deavouring to eftablifli. It is that which places vir- 
tue in utility, and accounts for the pleafure with 
which the fpedtator furveys the utility of any quality 
from fympathy with the happinefs of thofe who are 
affedcd by it. This fympathy is different both from 
that by which we enter into the motives of the agent, 
and from that by which we go along with the grati- 
tude of the perfons who are benefited by his actions. 
It is the fame principle with that by which we ap- 
prove of a well contrived machine. But no machine 
can be the objedt of either of thofe two laft mentioned 
fympathies. I have already, in the fourth part of 
this difcourfe, given fome account of this fyftem. 


Sed. IV. <?/ Moral Philosophy. 367 


Of the manner in which different authors have treated 
of the pradtical rules of morality. 

X T was obferved in the third part of this difcourfe, 
that the rules of jultice are the only rules of morality 
which are precife and accurate ; that thofe of all the 
other virtues are loofe, vague, and indeterminate; 
that the firfl: may be compared to the rules of gram- 
mar ; the others to thofe which critics lay down for 
the attainment of what is fublime and elegant in com- 
pofition, and which prefcnt us rather with a general 
idea of the perfection we ought to aim at, than af- 
ford us any certain and infallible diredlions for ac- 
quiring it. 

As the different rules of morality admit fuch dif- 
ferent degrees of accuracy, thofe authors who have 
endeavoured to colled and digeft them into fyitems 
have done it in two different manners ; and one fet 
has followed thro' the whole that loofe method to 
which they were naturally di reded by the confidera- 
tion of one fpecies of virtues ; while another has as 
univerfally endeavoured to introduce into their pre- 
cepts that fort of accuracy of which only fome of 
them are fufceptible. The firft have wrote like cri- 
tics, the fecond like grammarians, 

I. The 

368 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL 

I. The firft, among whom we may count all the 
ancient moralifts, have contented themfelves with 
defcribing in a general manner the different vices and 
virtues, and with pointing out the deformity and 
mifery of the one difpofuion as well as the pro- 
priety and happinefs of the other, but have not af- 
fe61:ed to lay down many precife rules that are to 
hold good unexceptionably in all particular cafes. 
They have only endeavoured to afcertain, as far as 
language is capable of afcertaining, firll, wherein 
confifts the fentiment of the heart, upon which 
each particular virtue is founded, what fort of in- 
ternal feeling or emotion it is which conflitutes the 
effence of friendfhip, of humanity, of generofity, 
of juflice, of magnanimity, and of ail the other 
virtues, as well as of the vices which are oppofed 
tn them : and, fecondly. What is the general way of 
a6ling, the ordinary tone and tenour of condu6t to 
which each of thofe fentiments would diredl us, or 
how it is that a friendly, a generous, a brave, a juft, 
and a humane man, would, upon ordinary occafionSj 
chufe to adt. 

To charaderize the fentiment of the heart, upon 
which each particular virtue is founded, though it 
requires both a delicate and accurate pencil, is a talk, 
however, which may be executed with fome degree 
of exadnefs. It is impoflible, indeed, to exprefs all 
the variations which each fentiment either does or 
ought to undergo, according to every poflible varia- 
tion of circumftances. They are endlefs, and lan- 
guage wants names to mark them by. The fenti- 
ment of friendfhip, for example, which we feel for 
an old man is different from that which we feel for 

a young : 

Sed. IV. of Moral Philosophy. 369 
a young : that which we entertain for an auftere 
man different from that which we feel for one of 
fofter and gentler manners : and that again from 
what we feel for one of gay vivacity and fpirit. The 
friendfhip which we conceive for 'a man is different: 
from that with which a woman affeds us, everi 
where there is no mixture of any grofTer palTion. 
What author could enumerate and afcertain theic 
and all the other infinite varieties which this fenti- 
ment is capable of undergoing ? But ftill the general 
fentiment of friendfhip and familiar attachment 
which is common to them all, may be afcertained with 
a fufiicient degree of accuracy. The pidure which is 
drawn of it, though it will always be in many refpedts 
incomplete, may, however, have fuch a refemblance 
as to make us know the original when we meet with 
it, and even diflinguifli it from other fentiments to 
which it has a confiderable refemblance, fuch as good- 
will, refpe(5l, efleem, admiration. 

To defcribe, in a general manner, what is the or- 
dinary v;ay of adling to which each virtue would 
prompt us, is ftill more eafy. Ic is, indeed, fcarce 
pofTible to defcribe the internal fentiment or emotion 
upon which it is founded, without doing fomething 
of this kind. It is impoflible by language to ex- 
prefs, if I may fay fo, the invifible features of all 
the different modifications of pafTioji as they fhow 
themfelves within. There is no other way of mark- 
ing and diflinguifhing them from one another, but 
by defcribing the effects which they produce with- 
out, the aletrations which they occafion in the 
countenance, in the air and external behaviour, the 
refolutions they fuggefl, the adlions they prompt to. 
It is thus that Cicero, in the firft book of his Of- 

B b fices> 

^7o ' 0/" Systems Part VI. 

fices, endeavours to direfl us to the pradlice of the 
four cardinal virtues, and that Ariftotle in the prac- 
tical parts of his Ethics, points out to us the diffe- 
rent habits by which he would have us regulate our 
behaviour, fuch as liberality, magnificence, magna- 
nimity, and even jocularity and good humour, qua- 
lities, which that indulgent philofopher has thought 
worthy of a place in the catalogue of the virtues, 
though the lightnefs of that approbation which we 
naturally beftow upon them, fhould not feem to en- 
title them to fo venerable a name. 

Such works prefent us with agreeable and lively 
pictures of manners. By the vivacity of their de- 
fcriptions they inflame our natural love of virtue, 
and increafe our abhorrence of vice : by thejuft- 
nefs as well as delicacy of their obiervations they 
may often help both to corred and to afcertain our 
natural fentiments with regard to the propriety of 
condudl, and fuggefting many nice and delicate at- 
tentions, form us to a more cxadt juftnefs of be- 
haviour, than what, without fuch inllrudtion, we 
fliould have been apt to think of. In treating of 
the rules of morality, in this manner, confifts the 
fcience which is properly called Ethics, a fcience, 
which though like criticifm, it does not admit of the 
moll accurate precifion, is, however,both highly ufeful 
and agreeable. It is of all others the moft fufcepti- 
ble of the embellifliments of eloquence, and by means 
of them of bellowing, if that be pofiible, a new im- 
portance upon the fmalleft rules of duty. Its pre- 
cepts, when thus drefled and adorned, are capable 
of producing upon the flexibility of youth, the 
noblefl and moft lafting imprefiion^, and as they 
fall in with the natural magnanimity of that gene- 

Se6t. IV. of Moral Philosophy. 371 

rous age, they are able to infpire, for a time atlealV,* 
the moft heroic refolutions, and thus tend both to 
eftablifti and confirm the beft and moft uleful habits 
of' which the mind of man is fufceptible. What- 
ever precept and exhortation can do to animate us to 
the pradice of virtue, is done by this fcience de- 
livered in this manner. 

IL The fecond fet of moralifts, among whom we 
may count all the cafuilts of the middle and latter 
ages of the chriftian church, as well as all thofe who 
in this and in the preceding century have treated of 
what is called natural jurifprudence, do not content 
themfelves with characterizing in this general man- 
ner that tenour of conduct which they would re- 
commend to us, but endeavour to lay down exadl 
and precife rules for the diredion of every circum- 
llance of our behaviour. As juftice is the only virtue 
with regard to which fuch exa6t rules can properly 
be given j it is this virtue, that has chiefly fallen 
under the confideration of thofe two different fets of 
writers. They treat of it, however, in a very dif- 
ferent. manner. 

Thofe who write upon the principles of jurifpru- 
dence, confider only what the perfon to whom the 
obligation is due, ought to think himfelf entitled to 
exacl by force ; what every impartial fpedator would 
approve of him for exading, or what a judge or 
arbiter, to whom he had fubmitted his cafe, and 
who had undertaken to do him juftice, ought to oblige 
the other perfon to fuffer or to perform. The ca- 
fuifts, on the other hand, do not fo much examine 
what it is, that might properly be exadted by force, 
as what it is, that the perfon who owes the obligation 

B b 2 ought 


372 0/ Systems Part VL 

ought to think himfelf bound to perform from the 
moft facred and fcrupulous regard to the general 
rules of juflice, and from the moft confcientious 
dread, either of wronging his neighbour, or of vio- 
lating the integrity of his own charadter. It is the 
end of jurifprudence to prefcribe rules for the deci- 
fions of judges and arbiters. It is the end of ca- 
fuiftry to prefcribe rules for the condud of a good 
man. By obferving all the rules of jurifprudence, 
fuppofing them ever fo perfect, we fliould deferve 
nothing but to be free from external punifhment. 
By obferving thofe of cafuiftry, fuppofing them fuch 
as they ought to be, we fhould be entitled to confi- 
derable praife by the exad: and fcrupulous delicacy 
of our behaviour. 

It may frequently happen that a good man ought 
to think himfelf bound, from a facred and confcien- 
tious regard to the general rules of juftice to perform 
many things which it would be the higheft injuftice 
to extort from him, or for any judge or arbiter to 
impofe on him by force. To give a trite example ; 
a highwayman, by the fear of death, obliges a tra- 
veller to promife him a certain fum of money. 
Whether fuch a promife, extorted in this manner by 
unjuft force, ought to be regarded as obligatory, is a 
queftion that has been very much debated. 

If we confider it merely as a queftion of jurifpru- 
dence, the decifion can admit of no doubt. It 
would be abfurd to fuppofe that the highwayman 
can be entitled to ufe force to conftrain the other to 
perform. To extort the promife was a crime which 
deferved the higheft puniftiment, and to extort the 
performance would only be adding a new crime to 


Sedl. IV. ^ Moral Philosophy. 375 

the former. He can complain of no injury who has 
been only deceived by the perfon by whom he might 
juftly have been killed. To fuppofe that a judge 
ought to enforce the obligation of fuch promifes, or 
that the magiftrate ought to allow them to fuflain 
an action at law, would be the mod ridiculous of all 
abfurdities. If we confider this queftion, therefore, 
as a queftion of jurifprudence, we can be at no lofs 
about the decifion. 

But if wc confider it as a queftion of cafuiftry, 
it will not be fo eafily determined. Whether a good 
man, from a confcientious regard to that moft facred 
rule of juftice, which commands the obfervance of 
all ferious promifes, would not think himfelf bounds 
to perform, is at leaft much more doubtful. That 
no regard is due to the difappointment of the wretch 
who brings him into this fituation, that no injury is 
done to the robber, and confequently that nothing 
can be extorted by force, will admit of no fort of 
difpute. But whether fome regard is not, in this 
cafe, due to his own dignity and honour, to the in- 
violable facred nefs of that part of his charafter 
which makes him reverence the law of truth, and 
abhor every thing that approaches to treachery and 
falfehood, may, perhaps, more reafonably be made 
a queftion. The cafuifts accordingly are greatly di- 
vided about it. One party, with whom we may 
count Cicero among 'the ancients, among the mo- 
derns, Puffendorf, Barbeyrac his commentator, and 
above all the late Dr. Hutchefon, one who in moft 
cafes was by no means a loofe cafuift, determine, 
without any hefitation, that no fort of regard is due 
to any fuch promife, and that to think otherwife is 

S b 3 rnere 

574- 0/ Systems Part VL 

mere wcaknefs and fuperftition. Another party, 
among whom we may reckon * fome of the ancient 
fathers of the church, as well as fome very eminent 
modern cafuifts, have been of another opinion, and 
have judged all fuch promifes obligatory. 

If we confider the matter according to the com- 
mon fentiments of mankind, we Ihall find that fome 
regard would be thought due even to a promife of 
this kind ; but that it is impollible to determine how 
much, by any general rule that will ^pply to all cafes 
without exception. The man who was quite frank 
and eafy rn making promifes of this kind, and who 
violated them with as little ceremony, we fhould not 
choofc for our friend and companion. A gentleman 
who fhould promife a highwayman five pounds and 
not perform, would incur fome blame. If the fum 
promifed, however, was very great, it n^ight be 
more doubtful, what was proper to be dqne. If it 
was fuch, for example, that the payment of it would 
entirely ruin the family of the promifer, if it was fo 
great as to be fufficient for promoting the moll 
ufeful purpofes, it would appear in fome meafure 
criminal, at lead extremely improper, to throw 
it, for the fake of a pundlilio, into fuch worth- 
lefs hands. The man who lliould beggar him- 
felf, or who (hould throw away an hundred 
thoufand pounds, though he could afford that 
vail fum, for the fake of obferving fuch a parole 
with a thief, would appear to the common fenfe of 
mankind, abfurd and extravagant in the highefl de- 
gree. Such profufion would feem inconfiftent with 
his duty, with what he owed both to himfelf and 


* St. Anguftine, la Placctte. 

Sed. IV. of Moral Philosophy. 275 

others, and what, therefore, regard to a promife ex- 
torted in this manner, could by no means authorise. 
To fix, however, by any preciie rule, wliat degree 
of regard ought to be paid to it, or what might be 
the greateft fum which could be due from it, is evi- 
dently impoflible. This would vary according to 
the charaders of the perfons, according to their cir- 
cumftances, according to the folemnity of the promife, 
and even according to the incidents of the rencoun^ 
ter : and if the promifer had been treated with a great 
deal of that fort of gallantry, which is fometimes to 
be met with in perfons of the mod abandoned cha- 
raders, more would feem due than upon other occa- 
fions. It may be laid in general, that exa6t propriety 
requires the obfervancc of ail fuch promifcs, where- 
ever it is not inconfiftent with fome other duties that 
are more facred •, fuch as regard to the public in- 
tereft, to thofe whom gratitude, whom natural affec- 
tion, or whom the laws of proper beneficence fliould 
prompt us to provide for. But, as was formerly 
taken notice of, we have no precife rules to determine 
what external adions are due from a regard to fuch 
motives, nor, confequently, when it is that thofe 
virtues are inconfiftent with the obfervance of fuch 

It is to be obferved, however, that whenever fuch 
promifes are violated, though for the moft: neceffary 
reafons, it is always with Ibme degree of difhonour 
to the perfon who made them. After they are made, 
we may be convinced of the impropriety of obferv- 
ing them. But ftill there is fome fault in having 
made them. It is at leaft a departure from the 
higheft and nobleft maxims of magnanimity and ho- 

B b 4 nour. 


37^ 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VL 

nour. A brave man ought to die, rather than make 
a promile which he can neither keep Without folly, 
nor violate v/ithout ignominy. For ftxne degree of 
ignominy always attends a fituation of this kind. 
Treachery and falfehood are vices fo dangerous, fo 
dreadful, and, at the fame time, fuch as may fo eafily, 
and, upon many occafions, fo fafely be indulged, that 
we are more jealous of them than of almoft any 
other. Our imagination therefore attaches the idea 
of Ihame to all violations of faith, in every circum- 
fiance and in every fituation. They refemble, in 
this refpedi:, the violations of chaftity in the fair fex, 
a virtue of which, for the like reafons, we are excef- 
fively jealous ; and our fentiments are not more de- 
licate with regard to the one, than with regard to the 
other. Breach of chaftity difhonours irretrievably. 
No circumftances, no folicitation can excufe it ; no 
forrow, no repentance atone for it. We are fo nice 
m this refpedt that even a rape difhonours, and the 
innocence of the mind cannot, in our imagination, 
wafii out the pollution of the body. It is the fame 
cafe with the violation of faith, when it has been fo- 
lemnly pledged, even to the moft worthlefs of man- 
kind. Fidelity is fo necefiary a virtue, that we ap- 
prehend it in general to be due even to thofe to whom^ 
nothing elfe is due, and whom we think it lawful to 
kill and deftroy. It is to no purpofe that the perfon 
who has been guilty of the breach of it, urges that he 
promifed in order to fave his life, and that he broke 
his promife becaufe it was inconfiftent with fome 
other refpedable duty to keep it. Thefe circum- 
ftances may alleviate, but cannot entirely wipe out 
hi* dilhonour. He appears to have been guilty ojf 
an a6tion with which, in the imaginations of men, 
fome degree of fliame is infeparably conneded. He 


Sedl. IV. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 377 

has broke a promife which he had iolemnly averred 
he would maintain •, and his charadcr, if not irre- 
trievably ftained and polluted, has at lead a ridicule 
affixed to it, which it will be very difficult entirely 
to efface •, and no man, I imagine, who had gone 
through an adventure of this kind, would be fond of 
telling the (lory. 

This inftance may ferve to fhow wherein confifts 
the difference between cafuiftry and jurifprudence, 
even when both of them confider the obligations of 
the general rules of juilice. 

But though this difference be real and effential, 
though thofe two fciences propofe quite diff^erent 
ends, the famenefs of the fubjedl has made fuch a 
fimilarity between them, that the greater part of au- 
thors whofe profeflcd defign was to treat of jurif- 
prudence, have determined the different queftions 
they examine, fometimes according to the principles 
of that fcience, and fometimes according to thofe of 
cafuiftry, without diflinguilhing, and, perhaps, with- 
out being themfclves aware when they did the one, 
and when the other. 

The do6lrine of the cafuifts, however, is by no 
means confined to the confideration of what a con- 
fcientious regard to the general rules of juftice, would 
demand of us. It embraces many other parts of 
Chriftian and moral duty. What feems principally 
to have given occafion to the cultivation of this 
fpecies of fcience was the cuftom of auricular con- 
fefTion, introduced by the Roman Catholic fuperfti- 
tion, in times of barbarifm and ignorance. By that 


378 0/ S y s T £ M s Part VI. 

inftitution, the mod fecrec adlions, and even the 
thoughts of every perlon, which could be fufpe6led 
of receding in the Imalleft degree from the rules of 
Chriftian purity, were to be revealed to the confeflbr. 
The confeflbr informed his penitents whether, and in 
what rcfpedl they had violated their duty, and what 
penance it behoved them to undergo, before he 
could abfolve them in the name of the offended 

The confcioufnefs, or even the fufpicion of having 
done wrong, is a load upon every mind, and is ac- 
companied with anxiety and terrour in all thofe who 
are not hardened by long habits of iniquity. Men, 
in this, as in all other diflrefles, are naturally eager to 
diiburthen themfelves of the oppreflion which they 
feel upon their thoughts, by unbofoming the agony 
of their mind to fome perfon whofe fecrecy and dif- 
cretion they can confide in. The fhame, which they 
lufFer from this acknowledgment, is fully compen- 
fated by that alleviation of their unealinels which 
the fympathy of their confident ieldom fails to occa- 
fion. It relieves them to find that they are not alto- 
gether unworthy of regard, and that however their 
paft condu(ft may be cenfured, iheir prefent difpo- 
iition is at leaft approved of, and is perhaps fufRcient 
to compenfate the other, at leaft to maintain them in 
fome degree of eftcem with their friend. A nume- 
rous and artful clergy had, in thofe times of fuper- 
itiiion, infmqated themfelves into the confidence of 
almoft every private family. They pofleiTed all the 
little learning which the times could afford, and their 
manners, though in many refpeds rude and difor- 
I',,; derly, were polifhed and regular C9mpared with thofe 

of the age they lived in. They were regarded, there- 

Sed. IV. of Moral Phi losot^hy. 379 

fore, not only as the great diredlors of all religious, 
but of all moral duties. Their familiarity gave re- 
putation to whoever was fo happy as to po(Tcfs ic, 
and every mark of their difapprobation (tamped the 
deepell ignominy upon all who had the misfortune 
to fall under it. Being confidercd as the great judges 
of right and wrong, they were naturally confulted 
about all fcruples that occurred, and it was reputable 
for any perfon to have it known that he made thofe 
holy men the confidents of all fuch fecrets, and took 
no important or delicate Hep in his conduit without 
their advice and approbation. It was not difficult 
for the clergy, therefore, to get it eftabliflied as a ge- 
neral rule, that they fhould be entrufted with what 
it had already become fadiionable to entruft them, 
and with v>^hat they generally would have been en- 
trufted though no fuch rule had been eftabliflied. 
To qualify themfelves for confeflbrs became thus a 
neceflary part of the ftudy of churchmen and divines, 
and they were thence led to collect what are called 
cafes of confcience, nice and delicate fituations, in 
which it is hard to determine whereabouts the propri- 
ety of condu(5t may lie. Such works, they ima- 
gined, might be of ufe both to the diredors of con- 
fcicnces and to thofe who were to be diredted ; and 
iience the origin of books of cafuiftry. 

The moral duties which fell under the confidera- 
tion of the cafuifts were chiefly thofe which can, in 
fome meafure at leaft, be circumfcribed within gene- 
ral rules, and of which the violation is naturally at- 
tended with fome degree of remorfe and fome dread 
of fuffering puniftiment. The defign of that inftitu- 
tion which gave occafton to their works, was to ap- 
peafe thoje terrours of confcience which attend upon 


38o 0/ S Y s T E M s Part VI, 

the infringement of fuch duties. But it is not every 
virtue of which the defedt is accompanied with any 
very fevere compundlions of this kind, and no man 
applies to his confeffor.for abfolution, becaufe he did 
not perform the mod generous, the moft friendly, 
or the moft magnanimous adtion which, in hiscir- 
cumftances, it was pollible to perform. In failures 
of this kind, the rule that is violated is commonly 
not very determinate, and is generally of fuch a na- 
ture too, that though the obfervance of it might en- 
title to honour and reward, the violation feems to ex- 
pole to no pofitive blame, cenfure, or punifhment. 
The exercife of fuch virtues the cafuifts leem to have 
regarded as a fort of works of fupererogation, which 
could not be very ftridly enabled, and which it was 
therefore unnecefiary for them to treat of. 

The breaches of moral duty, therefore, which 
came before the tribunal of the confeflbr, and upon 
that account fell under the cognizance of the cafuifts, 
were chiefly of three different kinds. 

Firft and principally, breaches of the rules of 
juftice. The rules here are all exprefs and pofitive, 
and the violation of them is naturally attended 
with the confcioufnefs of deferving, and the dread 
of fuffering punifhment both from God and man. 

Secondly, breaches of the rules of chaftity. Thefc 
in all grofier inftances are real breaches of the rules 
of juftice, and no perfon can be guilty of them with- 
out doing the moft unpardonable injury to fome 
other. In fmaller inftances, when they amount only 
, to a violation of thofe exadl decorums which ought 


Se<5t. IV. (?/ Moral Philosophy. 381 

to be obferved in the converfation of the two fexes, 
they cannot indeed jultly be confidered as violations 
of the rules of jultice. They are generally, how- 
ever, violations of a pretty plain rule, and, at 
lead in one of the fexes, tend to bring ignominy up- 
on the perfon who has been guilty of them, and con- 
fequently to be attended in the fcrupulous with fome 
degree of ihame and contrition of mind. 

Thirdly, breaches of the rules of veracity. The 
violation of truth, it is to be obferved, is not always 
a breach of juftice, though it is fo upon many, occa- 
fions, and conlequently cannot always expofe to any 
external punifhment. The vice of common lying, 
though a mod miferable meannefs, may frequently 
do hurt to no perfon, and in this cafe no claim of 
vengeance or fatisfadion can be due either to the 
perfons impofed upon, or to others. But though 
the violation of truth is not always a breach of juf- 
tice, it is always a breach of a very plain rule, and 
what naturally tends to cover with Ihame the perfon 
who has been guilty of it. The great pleafure of 
converfation, and indeed of fociety, arifes from a 
certain correfpondence of fentiments and opinions, 
frprn a certain harmony of minds, which like fo 
mar^y mufical inftruments coincide and keep time 
with one another. But this moft delightful harmony 
cannot be obtained unlefs there is a free communica- 
tion of fentiments and opinions. We all defire, 
upon this account, to feel how each other is afFeded, 
to penetrate into each other's bofoms, and to obferve 
the fentiments and affedlions which really fubfift 
there. The man who indulges us in this natural paf- 
fion, who invites us into his heart, who, as it were, 
fets open the gates of his bread to us, feems to exer- 


382 0/ S V s T E M s Part VL 

cife a fpecies of hofpitality more delightful than any 
other. No man, who is in ordinary good temper, 
can fail of pleafing, if he has the courage to utter 
his real fentiments as he feels them, and becaufe he 
feels them. It is this unreferved fincerity which ren- 
ders even the prattle of a child agreeable. How 
weak and imperfed foever the views of the open- 
hearted, we take pleafure to enter into them, and en- 
deavour, as much as we can, to bring down our own 
underftanding to the level of their capacities, and to 
regard every fubjed in the particular light in which 
they appear to have confidered it. This paffion to 
difcover the real fentiments of others is naturally fo 
ftrong, that it often degenerates into a troublelome 
and impertinent curiofity to pry into thofe fecrets of 
our neighbours v/hich they have very juflifiable rea- 
fons for concealing, and, upon many occafions, it 
' requires prudence and a flrong fenle of propriety ta 
govern this, as well as all the other pafijons of hu- 
man nature, and to reduce it to that pitch which any 
impartial fpedlator can approve of. To difappoint 
this curiofity, however, when it is kept within pro- 
per bounds, and aims at nothing which there can be 
any juft reafon for concealing, is equally difagreeable 
in its turn. The man who eludes our moft innocent 
queftions, who gives no fatisfadtion to our mofl in- 
offenfive inquiries, who plainly wraps himfelf up in 
impenetrable obfcurity, feems, as it were, to build a 
wall about his bread. We run forward to get within 
it, with all the eagernefs of harmlefs curiofity, and 
feel ourfelves all at once pufhed back with the rudeft 
and moft offenfive violence. If to conceal is fo dif- 
agreeable, to attempt to deceive us is ftill more dif- 
gufting, even though we could pofTibly fuffer no- 
thins bv the fuccefs of the fraud. If we fee that our 


Se<El. IV. ^/ Moral Philosophy. 383 

companion wants to impofe upon us, if the fenti- 
ments and opinions whicii he utters appear evidently 
not to be his own, let them be ever fo fine, we can 
derive no fort of entertainment from them j and if 
fomething of human nature did not now and then 
tranfpire through all the covers which falfehood and 
affe£lation are capable of wrapping around it, a pup- 
pet of wood would be altogether as pleafant a eom- 
panion as a perfon who never fpoke as he was afFedled. 
No man ever deceives, with regard to the moft infig- 
nificant matters, who is not confcious of doing fome- 
thing like an injury to thofe he converfes with ; and 
who does not inwardly blufh and flirink back with 
fhame and confufion even at the fecrec thought of a 
detecStion. Breach of veracity, therefore, being al- 
ways attended with fome degree of remorfe and felf- 
condemnation, naturally fell under the cognizance 
of the cafuifts. 

The chief fubjeds of the works of the cafuifls, 
therefore, were the confcientious regard that is due 
to the rules of juftice ; how far we ought to refpedl 
the life and property of our neighbour ; the duty of 
reftitution j the laws of chaftity and modefly, and 
wherein confided what, in their language, are called 
the fins of concupifcence : the rules of veracity, and 
the obligation of oaths, promifes, and contradls of 
all kinds. 

It may be faid in general of the works of the ca- 
fuifts that they attempted, to no purpofe, to dired: 
by precife rules what belongs to feeling and fentiment 
only to judge of. How is it poflible to afcertain by 
rules the exadt point at which, in every cafe, a deli- 
cate fenfe of jultice begins to run into a frivolous and 


384 Of Systems Part VL 

weak fcrupulofity of confcience ? When It is that fe- 
crecy and referve begin to grow into diflimulation ? 
How far an agreeable irony may be carried, and at 
what precife point it begins to degenerate into a de- 
teftable lie ? What is the higheft pitch of freedom 
and eafe of behaviour which can be regarded as 
graceful and becoming, and when it is that it firft 
begins to run into a negligent and thoughtlefs licen- 
tioufnefs ? With regard to all fuch matters, what 
would hold good in any one cafe would fcarce do fo 
exadly in any other, and what conftitutes the propri- 
ety and happinefs of behaviour varies in every cafe 
with thefmalleil variety of fituation. Books of ca- 
fuiftry, therefore, are generally as ufelefs as they are 
commonly tirefome. They could be of little ufe to 
one who fhould confult them upon occafion, even 
fuppofing their decifions to be jud ; becaufe, notwith- 
flanding the multitude of cafes colledled in them, 
yet upon account of the dill greater variety of pofli- 
ble circumftances, it is a chance, if among all thofe 
cafes there be found one exadlly parallel to that under 
confideration. One, who is really anxious to do his 
duty, muft be very weak, if he can imagine that 
he has much occafion for them ; and with regard to 
one who is negligent of it, the ftyle of thofe writings 
is not fuch as is likely to awaken him to more atten- 
tion. None of them tend to animate us to what is 
generous and noble. None of them tend to foften 
US to what is gentle and humane. Many of them, 
on the contrary, tend rather to teach us to chicane 
with our own confciences, and by their vain fubtil- 
ties ferve to authorize innumerable evafive refine- 
ments with regard to the moil elTential articles of our 
duty. That frivolous accuracy which they attempt- 
ed to introduce into fubjedls which do not admit of 


Se6l. IV. ^/ Moral Philosophy* 385 

it, almoft neceflarily betrayed them into thofe dange- 
rous errours, and at the fame time rendered their 
works dry and difagrceable, abounding in abftrufe 
and metaphyfical diftind:ions, but incapable of ex- 
citincr in the heart any of thofe emotions which it is 
the principal ufe of books of morality to excite. 

The two ufeful parts of moral philofophy, there- 
fore, are Ethics and Jurifprudence : cafuiftry ought 
to be rejeded altogether, and the ancient moralifts 
appear to have judged much better, who, in treating 
of the fame fubjedts, did not affedt any fuch nice 
exadtnefs, but contented themfelves with defcribing^ 
in a general manner, what is the fentiment upon 
which juftice, modefty, and veracity are founded, 
and what is the ordinary way of adting to which thole 
virtues would commonly prompt us. 

Something, indeed, not unlike the dodcrine of 
the cafuifts, feems to have been attempted by feve- 
ral philofophers. There is fomeihing of this kind 
in the third book of Cicero*s Offices, where he en- 
deavours like a cafuift to gives rules for our condudl 
in many nice cafes, in which it is difficult to deter- 
mine whereabouts the point of propriety may lie. It 
appears too, from many paflages in the fame book, 
that feveral other philofophers had attempted fome- 
thing of the fame kind before him. Neither he nor 
they, however, appear to have aimed at giving a 
complete fyftem of this fort, but only meant to ftiow 
how fituations may occur, in which it is doubtful, 
whether the higheft propriety of condudl confids in 
obferving or in receding from what, in ordinary 
cafes, are the rules of duty. 

C c Everv 

3^6 Of Systems Part VL 

Every fyftem of pofitive law may be regarded as 
a more or lefs imperfed attempt towards a fyftem 
of natural jurifprudence, or towards an enumeration 
of the particular rules of juftice. As the violation of 
juftice is what men will never fubmit to from one 
another, the public magiftrate is under a neceflity of 
employing the power of the commonwealth to enforce 
the pradice of this virtue. Without this precaution, 
civil fociety would become a fcene of bloodftied and 
diforder, every man revenging himfelf at his own 
hand whenever he fancied he was injured. To pre- 
vent the confufion which would attend upon every 
man's doing juftice to himfelf, the magiftrate, in all 
governments that have acquired any confiderable au- 
thority, undertakes to do juftice to all, and promi- 
fes to hear and to redrefs every complaint of injury. 
In all well-governed ftates too, not only judges are 
appointed for determining the controverfies of indi- 
viduals, but rules arc prefcribed for regulating the 
dccifions of thofe judges j and thefe rules are, in 
general, intended to coincide with thofe of natural 
juftice. It does not, indeed, always happen that 
they do fo in every inftance. Sometimes what is 
called the conftitution of the ftate, that is, the in- 
tereft of the government ; fometimes of the inter- 
eft of particular orders of men who tyrannize the 
government, warp the pofitive laws of the country 
from what natural juftice would prefcribe. In fome 
countries, the rudenefs and barbarifm of the people 
hinder the natural fentiments of juftice from arriving 
at that accuracy and precifion which, in more civi- 
lized nations, they naturally attain to. Their laws 
are, like their manners, grols and rude and undif- 
tinguiftiing. In other countries the unfortunate 
conftitution of their courts of judicature hinders any 
regular fyftem of jurifprudence from ever eftablifti- 


Sed. IV. of Man Ah FhilosopUy. ii^ 

ing itfelf among them, though the improved manners 
of the people may be fuch as would admit of the 
moft accurate. In no country do the decifions of 
pofitive law coincide exactly, in every cafe, with 
the rules which the natural ienfe of juftice would 
didate. Syllems of pofitive law, therefore, though 
they deferve the greateft authority, as the records of 
the fentiments of mankind in different ages and na- 
tions, yet can never be regarded as accurate fyftems 
of the rules of natural juftice. 

It might have been expeded that the feafonings 
of lawyers, upon the different imperfedtions and im- 
provements of the laws of different countries, lliould 
have given occafion to an inquiry into what were the 
natural rules of juftice independent of all pofuive 
inftitution. It might have been expected that thefe 
reafonings fnould have led them to aim at eftablifh- 
ing a fyftem of what might properly be called na- 
tural jurifprudence, or a theory of the general prin- 
ciples which ought to run through and be the foun- 
dation of the laws of all nations. But tho' the rea- 
fonings of lawyers did produce fomething of this 
kind, and though no man has treated fyftematically 
of the laws of any particular country, without in- 
termixing in his work many obfervationsof this fort y 
it was very late in the world before any fuch general 
fyflem was thought of, or before the phiiofophy of 
law was treated of by itfelf, and without regard to 
the particular inftitutions of any one nation. In none 
of the ancient moralids, do we find any attempt to- 
wards a particular enumeration of the rules of juftice^ 
Cicero in his Offices, and Ariftotle in his Ethics^ 
treat of juftice in the fame general manner in which 
they treat of all the other virtues. In the laws of 

C c 2 Cicero 

j88 - Of Sy STEM Sy &c. Fart VI. 

Cicero and Plato, where we might naturally have ex- 
pedled fome attempts towards an enumeration of thofe 
rules of natural equity, which ought to be enforced by 
the pofitive laws of every country, there is however, 
nothing of this kind. Their laws are laws of police, 
not of juftice. Grotius feems to have been the firft, 
who attempted to giv'e the world any thing like a 
fyftem of thofe principles which ought to run through, 
and be the foundation of the laws of all nations •, and 
his treatife of the laws of war and peace, with all 
its imperfections, is perhaps at this day the moft 
complete work that has yet been given upon this 
fubjed. I (hall in another difcourfe endeavour to 
give an account of the general principles of law and 
government, and of the different revolutions they 
have undergone in the different ages and periods of 
fociety, not only in what concerns juftice, but in 
what concerns police, revenue, and arms, and what- 
ever elfe is the objedl of law. I fhall not, therefore, 
at prefent enter into any further detail concerning the 
hiftory of jurifprudence. 


[ 389 ] 

C O N S I D E,R A T I O N S 

Concerning the FIRST 



Different Genius of original and compounded 

JL H E aflignation of particular names, to denote 
particular objeds, that is, the inftitution of nouns 
fubftantive, would, probably, be one of the firft 
fleps towards the formation of language. Two 
favages, who had never been taught to fpeak, but 
had been bred up remote from the focieties of men, 
would naturally begin to form that language by 
which they would endeavour to make their mutual 
wants intelligible to each other, by uttering certain 
founds, whenever they meant to denote certain objedls^ 
Thofe objeds only which were mofl familiar to them, 
and which they had mofl frequent occafion to men- 
tion, would have particular names alTigned to them. 
The particular cave whole covering fheltered them 
from the weather, the particular tree whofe fruit 
relieved their hunger, the particular fountain whole 
water allayed their thirfl, would firfl be denoted by 
the words cave^ tree, fountain^ or by whatever other 

C c 3 appellations 


appellations they might think proper, in that primi- 
tive jargon, to mark them. Afterwards, when the 
more enlarged experience of thefe favages had led 
thern to obferve, and their neceflary occafions 
obliged them to make mention of, other caves, and 
other trees, and other fountains, they would natu- 
rally beftovv, upon each of thofe new objects, the 
fame name, by which they had been accuftomed to 
exprels the fimilar obje6t they were firft acquainted 
with« The new objeds had none of them any namg 
of its own, but each of them exadtly refembled ano- 
ther objed:, which had fuch an appellation. It was 
impoiTible that thofe favages could behold the new 
objeds, without recolledling the old ones ; and the 
name of the old ones, to which the new bore fo clofe 
A resemblance. When they, had occafion, therefore, 
to mention, or to point out to each other, any of the 
new objeds, they would naturally utter the name of 
thecorrefpondent old one, of which the idea could not 
fail, at that inftant^ to prefent itfelf to their memory 
in the ftrongefl and livelieft manner. And thus, 
thofe words, which were originally the proper names 
of individuals, would each of them infenfibly become 
the common name of a multitude, A child that is 
juft learning to fpeak, calls every perfon who comes 
to the houfe its papa or its mama j and thus beftows 
upon the whole fpecies thofe names which it had been 
taught to apply to two individuals. I have known a 
clown, who did not know the proper name of the ri- 
ver which ran by his own door. It was //pe river ^ he 
faid, and he never heard any other name for it. 
His experience, it feems, had not Jed him to obferve 
any other river. The general word river^ there- 
fore, was, it is evident, in his acceptance of it, a 
proper name, fignifying an individual objed. If this 



perfon had been carried to another river, would he 
not readily have called it a river ? Could we fup- 
pofe any perfon living on the banks of the Thames 
fo ignorant, as not to know the general word rivet\ 
but to be acquainted only with the particular word 
Thames, if he was brought to any other river, would 
he not readily call it a Thames? This, in reality, is 
no more than what they, who are well acquainted 
with the general word, are very apt to do. An 
Englifhman, defcribingany great river which he may 
have feen in fome foreign country, naturally fays, 
that it is another Thames. The Spaniards, when 
they firlt arrived upon the coafl: of Mexico, and ob- 
served the wealth, populoufnefs, and habitations of 
that fine country, fo much fuperior to the favage na- 
tions which they had been vifiting for fome time be- 
fore, cried out, that it was another Spain. Hence it 
was called New Spain ; and this name has fluck to 
that unfortunate country ever fince. We fay, in the 
fame manner, of a hero, that he is an Alexander ; of 
an orator, that he is a Cicero ; of a philofopher, that 
he is a Newton. This way of fpeaking, which the 
grammarians call an Antonomafia, and which is ftili 
extremely common, though now not at all necefifary, 
demonftrates how much mankind are naturally dif- 
pofed to give to one objed the name of any other, 
which nearly refembles it, and thus to denominate a 
multitude, by what originally was intended to exprefs 
an individual. 

It is this application of the name of an individual 
to a great? multitude of objeds, whofe refemblancc 
naturally recalls the idea of that individual, and of 
the name which exprefTes it, that feems originally to 
have given occafion to the formation of thofc ciafles 

C c 4 and 

392 F O R iM A T I O N OF 

and afibrtnients, which, in the fchools, are called 
genera and fpecies, and of which the ingenious and 
eloquent M. RoufTeau of Geneva*, finds himfelf 
fo much at a lofs to account for the origin. What 
conftituies a fpecies is merely a number of objeds, 
bearing a certain degree of reiemblance to one ano- 
ther, and on that account denominated by a fingle 
appellation, which may be applied to exprefs any 
one of them. 

When the greater part of objedls had thus been ar- 
ranged under their proper claffes and aiTortments, 
dlftingulfhed by fuch general names, it was impof- 
lible that the greater part of that almoft infinite num- 
ber of individuals, comprehended under each particu- 
lar aflbrtment or fpecies, could have any peculiar or 
proper names of their own, diftindl from the general 
name of the fpecies. When there was occafion, 
therefore, to mention any particular objed:, it often 
became neceffary to dillinguifli it from the other ob- 
jects comprehended under the fame general name, 
either, firft, by its peculiar qualities j or, fecondly, 
by the peculiar relation which it flood in to fome 
other things. Hence the neceflary origin of two other 
fets of words, pf which the one fhould exprefs qua- 
lity ; the other relation. 

Nouns adjedlive are the words which exprefs qua- 
lity confidered as qualifying, or, as the fchoolmen 
fay, in concrete with, fome particular fubjed. Thus 
the word green exprefles a certain quality confidered 
as qualifying, or a§ in concrete with, the particular 


* Orlgine de I'Inegalite. Partie premiere, p. 376, 377, 
^didon d*Amfterdam, des Oeuvres diverfes de J. J. RouiTeau, 


fubje(5i: to which it may be applied. Words of this 
kind, it is evident, may ferve to diftinguifli particu- 
lar objeds from others comprehended under the fame 
general appellation. The words green tree, for 
example, might ferve to diftinguifh a particular tree 
from others that were withered or blafted. 

Prepofitions are the words which exprefs relation 
confidered, in the fame manner, in concrete with the 
co-relative objed. Thus the prepofitions of, to, for^ 
with, by, above, below, ^c. denote fome relation fub- 
filling between the objeds expreffed by the words 
between which the prepofitions are placed ; and they 
denote that this relation is confidered in concrete with 
the co-relative objed. Words of this kind ferve to 
diftinguifli particular objeds from others of the fame 
fpecies, when thofe particular objeds cannot be fo 
properly marked out by any peculiar qualities of 
their own. When we fay, the green tree of the meadow^ 
for example, we diftinguifli a particular tree, not 
only by the quality which belongs to it, but by the 
relation which it ftands in to another objed. 

As neither quality nor relation can exift in abftrad, 
it is natural to fuppofe that the words which denote 
them confidered in concrete, the way in which we 
always fee them fubfift, would be of much earlier 
invention, than thofe which exprefs them confidered 
in abftrad, the way in which we never fee them fub- 
fift. The words green and blue would, in all proba- 
bility, be fooner invented than the words greennefs 
and bluenefs ; the words above and below, than the 
words fuperiority and inferiority. To invent words 
of the latter kind requires a much greater effort of 



abllradion than to invent thofe of the former. It is 
probable, therefore, that fuch abftrad terms would 
be of much later inftitution. Accordingly, their 
etymologies generally (how that they are fo, they 
being generally derived from others that are con- 

But though the invention of nouns adjedive be 
much more natural than that of the abftradt nouns 
fabftantive derived from them, it would flill, howe- 
ver, require a confiderable degree of abftradion and 
generalization. Thofe, for example, who firft in- 
vented the words, green^ blue^ red, and the other 
names of colours, mufl: have obferved and compared 
together a great number of objeds, mud have re- 
marked their refemblances and diflimilitudes in re- 
fpeft of the quality of colour, and muft have ar- 
ranged them, in their own minds, into different 
clafles and afibrtments, according to thofe refem- 
blances and diflimilitudes. An adjeflive is by na- 
ture a general, and in fome meafure, an abltracft word, 
and neceflarily prefuppofes the idea of a certain fpe- 
cies or aflbrtment of things, to all of which it is 
equally applicable. The word green could not, as we 
were fuppofing might be the cafe of the word cave^ 
have been originally the name of an individual, and 
afterwards have become, by what grammarians call 
an Antonomafia the name of a fpecies. The word 
green denoting, not the name of a fubftance, but the 
peculiar quality of a fubllance, mufl from the very 
iirfl: have been a general word, and confidered as 
equally applicable to any other fubflance polTefTed 
of the fame quality. The man who firfldiflinguifhed 
a particular objedl by the epithet of green, mufl have 
obferved other objeds that were not green, from 



which he meant to fcparate it by this appellation. 
The inflitution of this name, therefore, fuppofes 
comparifon. It likewiJe fuppofes feme degree of ab- 
ltra<5{:ion. The peribn who firft invented this appel- 
lation mull have diftinguifhed the quality from the 
obje(!:t to which it belonged, and mud have conceived 
the objecl as capable of fubfifting without the qua- 
lity. The invention, therefore, even of the fimpleft 
nouns adjedlive, mud have required more metaphy- 
fics than we are apt to be aware of. The different 
mental operations, of arrangement or claffing, of 
comparilon, and of abftrafbion, mud all have 
been employed, before even the names of the differ- 
ent colours, the lead metaphyfical of all nouns ad- 
jective, could be indituted. From all which I infer, 
that when languages were beginning to be formed, 
nouns adjective would by no means be the words of 
the earlied invention. 

There is another expedient for denoting the dif- 
ferent qualities of different fubdances, which as it re- 
quires no abdradion, nor any conceived feparation 
of the quality from the fubjedl, feems more natural 
than the invention of nouns adjedive, and which, 
upon this account, could hardly fail, in the fird 
formation of language, to be thought of before them. 
This expedient is to make fome variation upon the 
noun fubdantlve itfelf, according to the different qua- 
lities which it is endowed with. Thus, in many lan- 
guages, the qualities both of fex and of the want of 
fex, are expreffed by different terminations in the 
riouns fubdantlve, whicli denote objedls fo qualified. 
In Latin, for example, lupus, hipa ; eqtius, equa\ ju- 
vencus, juvenca ; Julius, Julia ; Lucretius, Lucretia, 
he denote the qualities of male and female in the 



animals and perfons to whom fuch appellations be- 
long, without needing the addition of any adjedive 
for this purpofe. On the other hand, the words fo- 
rum, pratum, plaujlrum, denote by their peculiar ter- 
mination the total abfence of fex in the different fub- 
flances which they fland for. Both fex, and the want 
of all fex, being naturally confidered as qualities 
modifying and infeparable from the particular fub- 
ftances to which they belong, it was natural to exprefs 
them rather by a modification in the noun fubftan- 
tive, than by any general and abftrad: word expreflive 
of this particular fpecies of quality. The expreflion 
bears, it is evident, in this way, a much more exaifl 
analogy to the idea or objedl which it denotes, than 
in the other. The quality appears, in nature, as a 
modification of the fubftance, and as it is thus ex- 
preffed, in language, by a modification of the noun 
fubftantive, which denotes that fubftance, the qua- 
lity and the fubjedt are, in this cafe, blended toge- 
ther, if I may fay fo, in the expreflion, in the fame 
manner, as they appear to be in the objed: and in the 
idea. Hence the origin oF the mafculine, feminine, 
and neutral genders, in all the ancient languages. By 
means of thefe, the moft important of all diftindli- 
ons, that of fubftances into animated and inanimated, 
and that of animals into male and female, feem to 
have been fufficiently marked without the affiftance 
of adjedives, or of any general names denoting this 
moft exten five fpecies of qualifications. 

There are no more than thefe three genders in 
any of the languages with which I am acquainted ; 
that is to fay, the formation of nouns fubftantive, 
can, by itfelf, and without the accompaniment of ad- 


jedlives, exprefs no other qualities but thofe three 
above-mentioned, the quahties of male, of female, of 
neither male nor female. I fhould not, however, 
be furprifed, if, in other languages vs^ith v^hich 1 am 
unacquainted, the different formations of nouns fub- 
ftantive Ihould be capable of expreffing many other 
different qualities. Ihe different diminutives of the 
Italian, and of lome other languages, do, in reality, 
fometimes, exprefs a great variety of different modi- 
fications in the fubflances denoted by thofe nouns 
which undergo fuch variations. 

It was impofiible, however, that nouns fubftan- 
tive could, without lofing altogether their original 
form, undergo fo great a number of variations, as 
would be fufficient to exprefs that almoft infinite va- 
riety of qualities, by which it might, upon different 
occafions, be neceffary to fpecify and diftinguifli 
them. Though the different formation of nouns 
fubflantive, therefore, might, for fome time, fore- 
ftall the neceiTity of inventing nouns adjedive, it was 
impolfible that this neceifity could be foreftalled alto- 
gether. When nouns adjedlive came to be invented, 
it was natural that they Ihould be formed with fome 
fimilarity to the fubflantives, to which they were to 
ferve as epithets or qualifications. Men would na- 
turally give them the fame terminations with the fub-^ 
flantives to which they were firft applied, and from 
that love of fimilarity of found, from that delight in 
the returns of the fame fyllables, which is in the 
foundation of analogy in all languages, they would 
be apt to vary the termination of the fame adjedtive, 
according as they had occafion to apply it to a maf- 
culine, to a feminine, or to a neutral fubflantive. 



They would fay, magniis liipus^ magna lupa, magnum 
pratum, when they meant to exprefs a great be wolf^ 
a great ^^ wolfy a great tneadow. 

This variation, in the termination of the noun 
adjedtive, according to the gender of the fubftantive, 
which takes place in all the ancient languages, feems 
to have been introduced chiefly for the fake of a cer- 
tain fimilarity of found, of a certain fpecies of rhyme, 
which is naturally fo very agreeable to the human 
ear. Gender, it is to be obferved, cannot properly 
belong to a noun adje£live, the fignification of which 
is always precifely the fame, to whatever fpecies of 
fubftantives it is applied. When we fay, a great 
many a great woman, the word great has precifely the 
fame meaning in both cafes, and the difference of the 
fex in the fubjedts to which it may be applied, makes 
no fort of difference in its fignification. Magnus^ 
magna, magnum, in the fame manner, are words 
which exprefs precifely the fame quality, and the 
change of the termination is accompanied with no 
fort of variation in the meaning. Sex and gender are 
qualities which belong to fubftances, but cannot be- 
long to the qualities of fubftances. In general, no 
quality, when confidered in concrete, or as qualifying 
fome particular fubjedl, can itfclf be conceived as the 
fubjed of any other quality ; though when confi- 
dered in abftradl it may. No adjedive therefore 
can qualify any other adjedlive. A great good man^ 
means a man who is both great and good. Both the 
adjedlives qualify the fubftantive ; they do not qua- 
lify one another. On the other hand, when we fay, 
the great goodnefs of the man, the ^oxd goodnefs deno* 
ting a quality confidered in abftrad, which may it- 
felf be the fubjedt of other qualities, is upon that 



account capable of being qualified by die word, 

If the original invention of nouns adjedive would 
be attended with fo much difficulty, that of prepofi- 
lions would be accompanied with yet more. Every 
prepofition, as I have already obferved, denotes fome 
relation confidered in concrete with the co-relative 
objedl. The prepofition above, for example, denotes 
the relation of fuperiority, not in abftra(5l, as it is 
cxpreffrd by the word fuperiority^ but in concrete 
with fome co-relative objedl. In this phrafe, for ex- 
ample, thi tree above the cave, the word above, ex- 
prefles a certain relation between the tree and the 
cave, and it exprefles this relation in concrete with 
the co-relative objed, the cave, A prepofition al- 
ways requires, in order to complete the fenfe, fome 
other word to come after it *, as may be obferved in 
this particular inftance. Now, I fay, the original 
invention of fuch words would require a yet greater 
effort of abftradlion and generalization, than that of 
nouns adjedive. Firft of all, a relation is, in itfelf, 
a more metaphyfical objed than a quality. Nobody 
can be at a lofs to explain what is meant by a quali- 
ty ; but few people will find themfelves able to ex- 
prefs, very diftindtly, what is underftood by a rela- 
tion. Qualities are almoft always the objedsofour 
external fenfes -, relations never are. No wonder, 
ti.erefore, that the one fet of objeds Ihould be fo 
much more comprehenfible than the other. Second- 
ly, though prepofitions always exprefs the relation 
which they (land for, in concrete with the co-relative 
objed, they could not have originally been formed 
without a confiderable eflfort of abftradion. A pre- 
pofition denotes a relation, and nothingbut a relation. 



But before men could inftitute a word, which 
fignified a relation, and nothing but a relation, 
they mufl have been able, in fome meaiure, to con- 
fider this relation abftradtedly from the related ob- 
jed:s-, fince the idea of thofe objeds does not, in any 
refpe6l, enter into the fignification of the prepofition. 
The invention of fuch a word, therefore, mud have 
required a confiderable degree of abftradlion. Third- 
ly, a prepofidon is from its nature a general word, 
which, from its very firft inftitution, muft have 
been confidered as equally applicable to denote any 
other fimilar relation. The man who firft invented 
the word above, muft not only have diftinguiftied, in 
fome meafure, the relation o^ fupmority from the ob- 
jects which were fo related, but he muft alfo have 
diftinguiftied this relation from other relations, fuch 
as, from the relation of inferiority denoted by the 
word below^ from the relation of juxtapofitioriy ex~ 
prefled by the word befide^ and the like. He muft 
have conceived this word, therefore, as expreftive of 
a particular fort or fpecics of relation diftind: from 
every other, which could not be done without a 
confiderable effbrt of comparifon and generalization. 

Whatever were the difficulties, therefore, which 
embarrafied the firft invention of nouns adjedive, 
the fame, and many more, muft have embarrafied 
that of prepofitions. If mankind, therefore, in the 
firft formation of languages, feem to have, for fome 
time, evaded the neceflity of nouns adjedive, by 
varying the termination of the names of fubftances, 
according as thefe varied in fome of their moft impor- 
tant qualities, they would much more find ihem- 
felves under the neceflity of evading, by fome fimi- 
lar contrivance, the vet more difficult invention of 



prepositions. The different cafes in the ancient 
janguages is a contrivance of precifely the fame kincj. 
The genitive and dative cafes, in Greek and Latin, 
evidently fupply the place of the prepofitions ; and 
by a variation in the noun fubftantive, which ftands 
for the CO- relative term, exprefs the relation which 
fubfifts between what is denoted by that noun fub- 
ftantive, and what is expreffed by fome other word 
in the lentence. In thefe expreflions, for example, 
fru^us arboris^ the fruit of the tree ; facer Herculiy 
f acred to Horcules ; the variations made in the co- re- 
lative words, arbor and Hercules^ exprefs the fame 
relations which are expre/Ted in Englifli by the prepo- 
fitions ^and to. 

To exprefs a relation in this manner, did not re- 
quire gny effort of abftradion. It was not here ex- 
preffed by a peculiar word denoting relation and no-» 
thing but relation, but by a variation upon the co- 
relative term. It was expreffed here, as it appears in 
nature, not as fomething feparated and detached, but 
as thoroughly mixed and blended with the co- rela- 
tive objed. 

To exprefs relation in this manner, did not require 
any effort of generalization. The words arboris and 
Herculiy while they involve in their fignification the 
fame relation expreffed by the Englifh prepofitions 
c/and tOy are not, like thofe prepofitions, general 
words, which can be applied to exprefs the fame re- 
lation between whatever other objeds it mighit be 
obferved to fubfifc. 

To exprefs relation in this manner did not require 
any effort of comparifon. The words arboris and 

D d Her cult 

402 F O R M A T I O N O F 

Her cult are not general words intended to denote a 
particular fpecies of relations which the inventors of 
rhofe exprefTions meant, in confequence of fome fort 
cf comparifon, to feparate and diftinguifh from 
every other fort of relation. The example, indeed, 
of this contrivance would foon probably be fol- 
lowed, and whoever had occafion to exprefs a fimi- 
jar relation between any other objedls would be very 
apt to do it by making a fimilar variation on the 
name of the co-relative objed. This, 1 fay, would 
probably, or rather certainly happen \ but it would 
happen without any intention or forefight in thofe 
who firft fee the example, and who never meant to 
eftablifh any general rule. The general rule would 
eftablifh itfelf infenfibly, and by flow degrees, in 
confequence of that love of analogy and fimilarity 
of found, which is the foundation of by far the 
greater part of the rules of grammar. 

To exprefs relation therefore, by a variation in 
the name of the co-relative objeiSV, requiring neither 
abfl:ra<ftion, nor generalization, nor comparifon of 
any kind, would, at firft, be much more natural and 
eafy, than to exprefs it by thofe general words called 
prepofitions, of which the firft invention muft have 
demanded fome degree of all thofe operations. 

The number of cafes is different in different lan- 
guages. There are five in the Greek, fix in the 
Latin, and there are faid to be ten in the Armenian 
language. It muft have naturally happened that 
there Ihould be a greater or a fmaller number of 
cafes, according as in the terminations of nouns fub- 
ftantive the firft formers of any language happened 
to have eftabliftied a greater or a fmaller number of 



variations, in order to exprefs the different relations 
they had occafion to take notice of, before the in- 
vention of thofe more general and abftradl prepofi- 
tions which could fupply their place. 

It is, perhaps, worth while to obferve that thofe 
prepofuions, which in modern languages hold the 
place of the ancient cafes, are, of all others, the 
mod general, and abftrad:, and metaphyfical ; and 
of confcquence, would probably be the lad invented. 
Afk any man of common acutenefs, What relation 
is exprefled by the prepofition above ? He will readily 
anfwer, that o^fuperiority. By the prepofition below ? 
He will as quickly reply, that of inferiority. But afk 
him, what relation is exprefled by the prepofition <?/, 
and, if he has not beforehand employed his thoughts 
a good deal upon thefe fubjedls, you may fafely 
allow iiim a week to confider of his anfwer. The 
prepofitions above and below do not denote any of 
the relations expreflTed by the cafes in the ancient 
languages. But the prepofition of denotes the fame 
relation, which is in them exprefled by the genitive 
cafe J and which, it is eafy to obferve, is of a very 
metaphyflcal nature. The prepofltion of denotes 
relation in general, confidered in concrete with the 
co-/elative objedl. It marks that the noun fub- 
Itantive which goes before ir, is fomehow or other 
related to that which comes after it, but without in 
any refpe6l afcertaining, as is done by the prepofltion 
above, what is the peculiar nature of that relation. 
We often apply ir, therefore, to exprefs the mod 
oppoflte relations •, becaufe, the mod oppoflce rela- 
tions agree fo far that each of them comprehends in 
it the general idea or nature of a relation. We fay, 
the father of the fon^ and the fon of the father ; the 

D d 2 fir- 


fir-trees of the foreft^ and the foreft of the fir-trees. 
The relation in which the father (lands to the fon, 
is, it is evident, a quite oppofite relation to that in 
which the fon (lands to the father \ that in which the 
parts {land to the whole, is quite oppofite to that in 
which the whole flands to the parts. The word ofy 
however, ferves very well to denote all thofe rela- 
lions, becaufe in itfelf it denotes no particular rela- 
tion, but only relation in general », and fo far as any 
particular relation is colleded from fuch expreiTions, 
it is inferred by the mind, not from the prepofttion 
itfelf, but from the nature and arrangement of the 
fubllantives, between which the prepofition is placed. 

What I have faid concerning the prepofition of^ 
may in fome meafure be applied to the prepofitions, 
tOy for^ withy hy, and to whatever other prepofitions 
are made ufe of in modern languages, to fupply the 
place of the ancient cafes. They all of them ex- 
prefs very abftrad: and metaphyfical relations, which 
any man, who takes the trouble to try it, will find 
it extremely difficult to exprefs by nouns fubflantive, 
in the fame manner as we may exprefs the relation 
denoted by the prepofition ahove^ by the noun {ub- 
iisLniivefuperiority, They all of them, however, tx- 
prefs fome fpecific relation, and are, confequently, 
none of them fo abftrad as the prepofition of, 
which may be regarded as by far the moll meta- 
phyfical of all prepofitions. The prepofitions there- 
fore, which are capable of fupplying the place of 
the ancient cafes, being more abftradl than the other 
prepofitions, would naturally be of more difficulc 
invention. The relations at the fame time which 
thofe prepofitions exprefs, are, of all others, thofe 
which we have moft frequent occafion to mention. 



The prepofitions abovCy below, near, within, without^ 
againfty &c. are much more rarely made ufe of, in 
modern languages, than the prepofitions of, to, for, 
with, from, by. A prepofition of the former knid 
will not occur twice in a page ; we can fcarce com- 
pofe a fingle fentence without the afTiftance of one 
or two of the latter. If thefe latter prepofitions, 
therefore, which fupply the place of the cafes, 
would be of fuch difficult invention on account of 
their abftradtednefs, fome expedient, to fupply their 
place, mud have been of indifpcnfable neceffity, on 
account of the frequent occafion which men have to 
take notice of the relations which they denote. But 
there is no expedient fo obvious, as that of varying 
the termination of one of the principal words. 

It is, perhaps, unneceflary to obferve, that there 
are fome of the cafes in the ancient languages, which, 
for particular reafons, cannot be reprefented by any 
prepofitions. Thefe are the nominative, accufative, 
and vocative cafes. In thofe modern languages, 
which do not admit of any fuch variety in the ter- 
minations of their nouns fubftantive, the corre- 
fpondent relations are exprefled by the place of the 
words, and by the order and conflrudion of the fen- 

As men have frequently occafion to make men- 
tion of multitudes as well as of fingle objedls, it 
became necefTary that they (hould have fome method 
of expreffing number. Number may be exprefTed 
either by a particular word, exprefling number in 
general, fuch as the words maTty, more, &c. or by 
fome variation upon the words which exprefs the 
things numbered. It is this lad expedient which 

D d 3 mankind 


mankind would probably have recourfe to, in the 
infancy of language. Number, confidered in gene- 
ral, without relation to any particular fet of ol^edls 
numbered, is one of the moft abflradt and me- 
raphyfical ideas, which the mind of man is capable 
of forming ; and, confequently, is not an idea, 
which would readily occur to rude mortals, who 
were juft beginning to form a language. They 
would naturally, therefore, diftinguifh when they 
talked of a fingle, and when they talked of a mul- 
titude of objeds, not by any metaphyfical adjedlives, 
fuch as the Englifh, ^, an^ many^ but by a variation 
upon the termination of the word which fignified 
the objedls numbered. Hence the origin of the 
fingular and plural numbers, in all the ancient lan- 
guages ; and the fame diflindtion has likewife been 
retained in all the modern languages, at leaft, in the 
greater part of words. 

All primitive and uncompounded languages feem 
to have a dual, as well as a plural number. This 
is the cafe of the Greek, and I am told of the He- 
brew, of the Gothic, and of many other languages. 
In the rude beginnings of fociety, one^ two^ and more^ 
might poflibly be all the numeral diftindions which 
mankind would have any occafion to take notice of. 
Thefe they would find it more natural to exprefs, 
by a variacion upon every particular noun fubftan- 
tive, than by fuch general and abftracft words as one^ 
two^ three^ four^ &c. Thefe words, though cuftom 
has rendered them familiar to us, exprefs, perhaps, 
the moft fubtile and refined abftradlions, which the 
mind of man is capable of forming. Let any one 
confider within himfelfj for example, what he means 



by the word three, which fignifies neither three fhil- 
lings, nor three pence, nor three men, nor three 
horfes, but three in general ; and he will eaflly fa- 
tisfy himfelf that a word, which denotes fo very me- 
taphyfical an abftradbion, could not be either a very 
obvious or a very early invention. I have read of fome 
favage nations, whofe language was capable of ex- 
prefling no more than the three firll numeral diftinc- 
tions. But whether it exprefTed thofe diflindions by 
three general words, or by variations upon the nouns 
fubllantive, denoting the things numbered, I do 
not remember to have met with any thing which 
could determine. 

As all the fame relations which fubfift between 
fingle, may likewife fubfift between numerous ob- 
jcds, it is evident there would be occafion for the 
fame number of cafes in the dual and in the plural^ 
as in the fingular number. Hence the intricacy and 
complexnefs of the declenfions in all the ancient 
languages. In the Greek there are five cafes in 
each of the three numbers, confequently fifteen 
in all. 

As nouns adjedlive, in the ancient languao-es, 
varied their terminations according to the gender of 
the fubftantive to which they were applied, fo did 
they likewife, according to the cafe and the number. 
Every noun adjedive in the Greek language, there- 
fore, having three genders, and three numbers, and 
five cafes in each number, may be confidered as 
having five and forty different variations. The firft 
formers of language feem to have varied the termi- 
nation of the adjedlive, according to the cafe and 
tliQ number of the fubllantive, for the fame reafon 

D d 4 which 

4o8 F O R M A T I O N O F 

which made them vary according to the gender ; the 
love of analogy, and of a certain regularity of found. 
In the fignification of adjedlives there is neither cafe 
nor number, and the meaning of fuch words is 
always precifely the fame, notwithftanding all the 
variety of termination under which they appear. 
Magnus vir, magni viri^ magnoriim virorum \ a great 
many of a great man^ of great men \ in all thefe ex- 
preffions the words magnuSy magni^ magnorum^ as well 
as the word great^ have precifely one and the fame 
fignification, though the fubftantives to which they 
are applied have not. The difference of termina- 
tion in the noun adjedive is accompanied with no 
fort of difference in the meaning. An adjedlive 
denotes the qualification of a noun fubflantive. But 
the different relations in which that noun fubflantive 
may occafionally tfand, can make no fort of diffe- 
rence upon its qualification. 

If the declenfions of the ancient languages are 
fo very complex, their conjugations are infinitely 
more fo. And the complexnefs of the one is founded 
upon the fame principle with that of the other, the 
difficulty of forming, in the beginnings of language, 
abftrad and general terms. 

Verbs mufl neceffarily have been coeval with the 
very firfl attempts towards the formation of lan- 
guage. No affirmation can be expreffed without the 
affi (lance of fome verb. We never fpeak but in or- 
der to exprefs our opinion that fomething either is or 
is nor. But the word denoting this event, or this 
matter of fad, which is the fubje6t of our affirma- 
tion, mull always be a verb. 



Imperfonal verbs, which exprefs in one word a 
complete event, which preferve in the exprelTion that 
perfect fimplicity and unity, which there always is in 
theobjedt and in the idea, and which fuppofe no ab- 
flracflion, or metaphyfical divifion of the event into 
its feveral conftituent members of fubjed and attri- 
bute, would, in all probability, be the fpecies of 
verbs firft invented. The verbs pluit^ it rains j nin- 
gity it fnows \ tonaty it thunders ; lucety it is day 5 
turhatur^ there is a confufiony &c. each of them ex- 
prefs a complete affirmation, the whole of an event, 
with that perfe(ft fimplicity and unity with which 
the mind conceives it in nature. On the contrary, the 
phrafes, Alexander amhulaty Alexander walks j Petrus 
fedety Peter JitSy divide the event, as it were, into two 
parts, the perfon or fubjedl, and the attribute, or 
matter of fad, affirmed of that fubjedl. But in na- 
ture, the idea or conception of Alexander walking, is 
as perfedly and completely one fingle conception, as 
that of Alexander not walking. The divifion of 
this event, therefore, into two parts, is altogether ar- 
tificial, and is the efFed: of the imperfedlion of lan- 
guage, which, upon this, as upon many other occa- 
fions, fupplies, by a number of words, the want of 
one, which could exprefs at once the whole matter of 
fadl that was meant to be affirmed. Every body 
mull obferve how much more fimplicity there is in 
the natural expreffion, pluit^ than in the more artifi- 
cial cxpreffions, imker decidit^ the rain falls \ or, 
tempeftas eft pluvia, the weather is rainy. In thefe 
two laft expreffions, the fimple event, or matter of 
fad, is artificially fplit and divided, in the one, into 
two •, in the other, into three parts. In each of them 
it is exprefifed by a fort of grammatical circumlocu- 


tion, of which the fignificancy is founded upon a 
certain metaphyfical analyfis of the component parts 
of the idea exprefled by the word pJuit. The firft 
verbs, therefore, perhaps even the firft words, made 
ufe of in the beginnings of language, would in all 
probability be fuch imperfonal verbs. It is obferved 
accordingly, I am told, by the Hebrew Gramma- 
rians, that the radical words of their language, from 
which all the others are derived, are ail of them 
verbs, and imperfonal verbs. 

It is eafy to conceive how, in the progrefs of lan- 
guage, thofe imperfonal verbs fhould become perfo- 
nal. Let us fuppofe, for example, that the word 
venity it comeSy was originally an imperfonal verb, 
and that it denoted, not the coming of fomething in 
general, as at prefent, but the coming of a particular 
objedt, fuch as the Lion. The firft favage inventors 
of language, we fhall fuppofe, when they obferved 
the approach of this terrible animal, were accuftom- 
ed to cry out to one another, venit^ that is, the lion 
comes ; and that this word thus exprefled a complete 
event, without the afliftance of any other. After- 
wards, when, on the further progrefs of language, 
they had begun to give names to particular fub- 
ftances, whenever they obferved the approach of 
any other terrible objedl, they would naturally join 
the name of that objedt to the word venit^ and cry 
out, venit urftis^ venit lupus. By degrees the word 
venit would thus come to fignify the coming of any 
terrible objed, and not merely the coming of the 
iion. It would nov/ therefore, exprefs, not the com- 
ing of a particular objedt, but the coming of an ob- 
jed: of a particular kind. Having become more ge- 
neral in its fignification, it could no longer reprefent 



any particular di(lin(5t event by itfelf, and without 
the afliftance of a noun fubftantive, which might 
ferve to afcertain and determine its fignilication. It 
would now, therefore, have become a perfonal, in- 
ftead of an imperfonal verb. We may eafily con- 
ceive how, in the further progrefs of fociety, it might 
ftill grow more general in its fignification, and come 
to fignify, as at prefent, the approach of any thing 
whatever, whether good, bad, or indifferent. 

It is probably in fome fuch manner as this, that 
almoll all verbs have become perfonal, and that 
mankind have learned by degrees to fplit and divide 
almoft every event into a great number of metaphy- 
fical parts, exprefled by the different parts of fpeech, 
varioufly combined in the different members of every 
phrafe and fentence. * The fame fort of progrefs 
feems to have been made in the art of fpeaking as 
in the art of writing. When mankind firft began to 
attempt to exprcfs their ideas by writing, every cha- 
racter reprefented a whole word. But the number 
of words being almoft infinite, the memory found 
itfelf quite loaded and opprefled by the multitude of 


* As the far greater part of Verbs exprefs, at prefent, not an 
event, but the attribute of an event, and, confequently, require 
a fubjeft, or nominative cafe, to complete their fignification, 
fome grammarians, not having attended to this progrefs of nature, 
and being defirous to make their common rules quite univerfal, 
and without any exception, have infifted that all verbs required a 
nominative, either exprefled or underftood ; and have, accord- 
ingly put themfelves to the torture to find fome awkward nonii- 
natives to thofe few verbs, wliich ftill exprefling a complete event, 
plainly admit of none. P/«//, for example, according to (S^^^/V//, 
^ mz2in% flwvia pluit, in Englifli, the rain rains, See Sandlii Mi- 
nerva, 1. 3. c. I, 


charadlers which it was obliged to retain. Neceflity 
taught them, therefore, to divide words into their 
elements, and to invent charaders which fhould re- 
prelent, not the words themfelves, but the elements 
of which they were compofed. In confequen^.e of 
this invention, every particular word came to be re- 
prefented, not by one charadter, but by a multitude 
of characters •, and the exprefilon of it in writing be- 
came much more intricate and complex than before. 
But though particular words were thus reprefented 
by a greater number of charaders, the whole lan- 
guage was exprefied by a much fmaller, and about 
four and twenty letters were found capable of fup- 
plying the place of that immenfe multitude of cha- 
radlers, which were requifite before. In the fame 
manner, in the beginnings of language, men feem to 
have attempted to cxprefs every particular event, 
which they had occafion to take notice of, by a par- 
ticular word, which exprefled at once the whole of 
that event. But as the number of words muft, in 
this cafe, have become really infinite, in confequence 
of the really infinite variety of events, men found 
themfelves partly compelled by neceffity, and partly 
conduded by nature, to divide every event into 
what may be called its metaphyfical elements, and to 
inftitute words, which fhould denote not fo much 
the events, as the elements of which they were com- 
pofed. The expreflion of every particular event, 
became in this manner more intricate and complex, 
but the whole fyftem of the language became more 
coherent, more conneded, more eafily retained and 

"When verbs, from being originally imperfonal had 
thus, by the divifion of the event into its metaphy- 


fical elements, become perfonal, it is natural to fup- 
pofe that they would firft be made ufe of in the third 
perfon lingular. No verb is ever uled Imperfonally 
in our language, nor, fo far as I know, in any other 
modern tongue. But in the ancient languages, 
whenever any verb is ufed imperfonally, it is always 
in the third perfon fingular. The termination of 
thofe verbs, which are ftiii always imperlbnal, is 
conftantly the fame with that of the third perfon fm- 
gular of perfonal verbs. The confideration of thefe 
circumftances, joined to the naturalnefs of the thing 
itfelf, may ferve to convince us that verbs firfc be- 
came perfonal in what is now called the third perfon 

But as the event, or matter of fadt, which is ex- 
preffed by a verb, may be affirmed either of the per- 
fon who fpeaks, or of the perfon who is fpoken to, 
as well as of fome third perfon or objed, it became 
neceflary to fall upon fome method of exprefilng 
thefe two peculiar relations of the event. In the 
Englifh language this is commonly done, by pre- 
fixing, what are called the perfonal pronouns, to the 
general word which expreffes the event affirmed. 
I came^ you came^ he or it came\ in thefe phraies the 
event of having come is, in the firft, affirmed of the 
fpeakerj in the fecond, of the perfon fpoken to •, in 
the third, of fome other perfon, or objed. The firft 
formers of language, it may be imagined, might have 
done the fame thing, and prefixing in the fame man- 
ner the two firft perfonal pronouns, to the fame ter- 
mination of the verb, which exprefi^ed the third per- 
fon fingular, might have fuid, ego venit^ tu venit^ 
as well as ilk or illud venit. And I make no doubt 


414 F O R M A T I O N F 

but they would have done (o, if at the time when 
they had firft occafion to cxprels thefe relations of the 
verb, there had been any fuch words as either ego or 
iu in their language. But in this early period of the 
language, which we are now endeavouring to de- 
fcribe, it is extremely improbable that any fuch 
words would be known. Though cuftom has now 
rendered them familiar to us, they, both of them, 
exprefs ideas extremely metaphyfical and abftradt. 
The word /, for exam.ple, is a word of a very parti- 
cular fpecies. Whatever fpeaks may denote itielf by 
this perlbnal pronoun. The word /, therefore, is a 
general word, capable of being predicated, as the lo- 
gicians fay, of an infinite variety of objeds. It dif- 
fers, however, from all other general words in this 
refpedt ; that the objeds of which it may be predi- 
cated, do not form any particular fpecies of objeds 
diftinguifhed from all others. The word /, does 
nor, like the word man, denote a particular clafs of 
objeds, feparated from all others by peculiar qua- 
lities of their own. It is far from being the name of 
a fpecies, but, on the contrary, whenever it is made 
ufe of, it always denotes a precife individual, the par- 
ticular perfon who then fpeaks. It may be faid to 
be, at once, both what the logicians call, a fingular, 
and what they call, a common term ; and to join in 
its fignification the feemingly oppofite qualities of the 
moft precife individuality, and the moft extenfive 
generalization. This word, therefore, exprefling fo 
very abftrad and metaphyfical an idea, would not 
eafily or readily occur to the firfl formers of language. 
"What are called the perfonal pronouns, it may be 
obferved, are among the laft words of which chil- 
dren learn to make ufe. A child, fpeaking of itfelf, 



fays, Billy walks ^ Billy fits, inftead of / walk^ I fit. 
As in the beginnings of language, therefore, man- 
kind feem to have evaded the invention of at leaft the 
more abftrad propofitions, and to have exprefled the 
fame relations which thefe now ftand for, by vary- 
ing the termination of the co-relative term, fo they 
likewife would naturally attempt to evade the necef- 
fity of inventing tliofe more abitradl pronouns by va- 
rying the termination of the verb, according as the 
event which it cxprciTed was intended to be affirmed 
of the firft, fecond, or third perfon. This feems, 
accordingly, to be the univerfal pradice of all the 
ancient languages. In Latin, veni, venifti^ venit, fuf- 
ficiently denote, without any other addition, the dif- 
ferent events exprcffed by the Englifh phrafes, / 
came^ you came^ he\ 01 4t came. The verb would, 
for the fame reafon, vary its termination, according 
as the event was intended to be affirmed of the firft, 
iecond, or third perfons plural ♦, and what is exprefled 
by the Englifh phrafes, we came^ ye came, they came^ 
would be denoted by the Latin words, venimiis, ve- 
niftis, venerunt. Thole primitive languages, too, 
which, upon account of the difficulty of inventing 
numeral names, had introduced a dual, as well as a 
plural number, into the declenfion of their nouns 
lubllantive, would probably, from analogy, do the 
lame thing in the conjugations of their verbs. And 
thus in all thofc original languages, we might ex~ 
p«6l to find, at leaft fix, if not eight or nine varia- 
tions, in the termination of every verb, according 
as the event which it denoted was meant to be affirm- 
ed ot the firft, fecond, or third perlbns fingular, 
dual, or plural. Thefe variations again being re- 
peated, along with others, through all its dif- 
ferent tcnfes, niodei and voices, muft neccfTarilv 




have rendered their conjugations ftilj more intricate 
and complex than their declenfions, 

Language would probably have continued upon 
this footing in all countries, nor would ever have 
grown more fimple in its declenfions and conjugati- 
ons, had it not become more complex in its compo- 
fition, in confequence of the mixture of feveral lan- 
guages with one another, occafioned by the mixture 
of different nations. As long as any language was 
fpoke by thofe only who learned it in their infancy, 
tiie intricacy of its declenfions and conjugations 
could occafion no great embarrafTment. Tte fe 
greater part of thofe who had occafion to fpeak it, 
had acquired it at (^o v^ry early a period of their 
lives, fo infenfibly and by fuch flow degrees, that 
they were fcarce ever fenfible of the difficulty. But 
when two nations came to be mixed with one ano- 
ther, either by conqueft or migration, the cafe 
would be very different. Each nation, in order to 
make itfelf intelligible to thofe with whom it was 
under the neceffity of converfing, would be obligee 
to learn the language of the other. The greater pare 
of individuals too, learning the nev/ language, not 
by art, or by remounting to its rudiments and firfc 
principles, but by rote, and by what they commonly 
heard in converfation, would be extremely perplexed 
by the intricacy of its declenfions and conjugation!). 
They would endeavour, therefore, to iupply their 
ignorance of thefe, by whatever (hift the language 
could aiford them. Their ignorance of the declenfi- 
ons they would naturally fupply by the ufe of pre- 
pofitions ; and a Lombard, who was attempting to 
fpeak Latin, and wanted to exprefs that fuch a per- 
fon was a citizen of Romej or a benefadlor to Rome, 



IF he happened not to be acquainted with the geni- 
live and dative cafes of the word Roma, would natu- 
rally exprefs himfelf by prefixing the prepofitions ad 
and de to the nominative ; and, inftead of Romce, 
would fay, ad Roma, and de Roma, Al Roma and 
di Roma, accordingly, is the manner in which the 
prefent Italians, the defcendants of the ancient Lom- 
bards and Romans, exprefs this and all other fimilar 
relations. And in this manner prepofitions feem to 
have been introduced, in the room of the ancient 
declenfions. The fame alteration has, 1 am informed, 
been produced upon the Greek language, fince the 
taking of Conftantinople by the Turks. The words 
are, Tn a great meafure, the fame as before-, but 
the' grammar is entirely loft, prepofitions having 
come in the place of the old declenfions. This 
change is undoubtedly a fimplification of the langu- 
age, in point of rudiments and principle. Tt intro- 
duces, inftead of a great variety of declenfions, one 
univerfal declenfion, which is the fame in every 
word, of whatever gender, number, or termination. 

A fimilar expedient enables men, in the fituation 
above mentioned, to get rid of almoft the whole in- 
tricacy of their conjugations. There is in every 
lancruage a verb, known by the name of the fubftan- 
tiveverbj in Latin, >»2; in Englifti, / ^^. This 
verb denotes not the exiftence of any particular 
event, but exiftence in general. It is, upon this 
account, the moft abftracl: and metaphyfical of all 
verbs •, and, confequently, could by no means be a 
a word of early invention. When it came to be in- 
vented, however, as it had all the tenfes and modes 
of any other verb, by being joined with the pafFive 
participle, it was capable of fupplying the place of 

E e the 


the whole paflive voice, and of rendering this part of 
their conjugations as fi mple and uniform^ as the ufe 
of prepofitions had rendered their declenfions. A 
Lombard, who wanted to fay, I am loved^ but could 
not recolle(5t the word amor^ naturally endeavoured 
to fupply his ignorance, by faying, ego fum amaHis, 
lo fono amatOy is at this day the Italian expreflion, 
which correfponds to the Englifh phrafe above men- 

There is another verb, which, in the fame man- 
ner, runs through all languages, and which is diftin- 
guifhed by the name of the poffeflive verb ; in Latin, 
habeo •, in Englifh, / have. This verb, likewife, de- 
notes an event of an extremely abftradt and metaphy- 
fical nature, and, confequently, cannot be fuppofed 
to have been a word of the earlieft invention. When 
it came to be invented, however, by being applied 
to the paflive participle, it was capable of fupplying 
a great part of the adlive voice, as the fubftantive 
verb had fupplied the whole of the paflive. A Lom- 
bard, who wanted to fay, I bad loved^ but could not 
recoiled!: the word amaveramy would endeavour to 
fupply the place of it, by faying either ego hahebam 
amafum, or ego habui amatum, lo avevd amato^ or 
lo ebhi amato, are the correfpondent Italian exprefll- 
ons at this day. And thus upon the intermixture of 
different nations with one another, the conjugations, 
by means of different auxiliary verbs, were made 
to approach towards the fimplicity and uniformity of 
the declenfions. 

In general it may be laid down for a maxim, that 
the more fimple any language is in its compofition, 



the mor^ complex it muft be in its declenfions and 
conjugations ; and, on the contrary, ^he more fimr 
pk it is in its declenfions and conjugations, the more 
complex it muft be if\ its compofition^ . ■ 

^ The Greek feems to be, in a gre^t meafure, a 
ilmpJe, uncompounded language, formed from the 
primitivejargon of thofe wandering fav^ges, the an- 
cient Helienians and Pelafgians, from whom the 
Greek nation. ^is.faid. to have been defended. All 
the words in the Greek language are derived from 
about. three hundred primitives, a pjain evidence 
chat the Greeks formed their language ajmoft entirely 
among themfelves, apd that when they, had occafion 
.^or; a new word, they were npt accuftpmed, as we 
are, to borrow it from fome foreign- langpage, but to 
i-orm It, either by compofition or derivation from 
fome other word or words, in their owfl. The de- 
clenfions and conjugations, therefore, t)f the Greek 
are much more complex than thofe of any other Eu^ 
ropean language with which I am acquainted. 

The Latin is a compofition of the Greek and of 
the ancient Tufcan languages. Its deelenfions and 
coniugations accordingly are much lefs Complex tha- 
thole of the Greek : it lias dropt the dual number in 
both. Its verbs have no optative mood diftinguiihed 
by any peculiar termination. They have but one 
future. They have no aoriftdiftindt from the pre 
terit-perfed i they have no middle voice ^ and even 
many of .heir tenfes in the pafFive voice are eked our 
in the fame manner as in the modern languages, hv 
tnt help of the fubftantive verb joined to the paffive 
participle. In both the voices, the number of in- 

■^ ^ 2 finitives. 


linitives and participles is much fmaller in the Latin 
than in the Greek. 

The French and Italian languages are each of 
them compounded, the one of the Latin, and the 
langu-age of the ancient Franks, the other of the fame 
Latin and thfe language of the ancient Lombards. 
As they are both of them, therefore, more complex 
in their compofition than the Latin, fo are they like- 
wife more fimple in their dcclenfions and conjugati- 
ons. With regard to their declenfions, they have 
both of them loft their cafes altogether ; and with 
regard, to their conjugations, they have both of them 
loft the whole of the pafTive, and fome part of the 
a6llve voices of their verbs. The want of the paflive 
voice they fupply entirely by the fubftantive verb 
joined to the' paflive participle y and they make out 
part of the adlive, in the fame manner, by the help 
of the poffefTive verb and the fame paflive partici- 

The Englifh is compounded of the French and 
the ancient Saxon languages. The French was in- 
troduced into Britain by the Norman conqueft, and 
continued, till the time of Edward III. to be the 
fole language of the law as well as the principal 
language of nhe court. The Englifh, which came 
io be fpoken afterwards, and which continues to be 
ipoken now, is a mixture of the ancient Saxon and 
this Norman French. As the Englilh language, 
therefore, is more complex in its compofition than 
either the French or the Italian, fo is it likewife more 
limple in its declenfions and conjugations. Thofe 
two languages retain, at leaft, a part of the diftinc- 
tion of genders, and their adjedives vary their ter- 

- fnination 


mination according as they are applied to a mafcu- 
Ce or "o a femirune fubftaative. Bat there .s no 
S diftinaion in the Englifh language whofead- 
jedives admit of no var.ecy of termmat.on. The 
French and Italian languages l^^' '^^^^^^ ^^^^ 
the remains of a conjugation, and all ^^ofe tenfes ot 
the aaive voice, which cannot be expreffed by the 
poVrffirverb /oined to the paffive P-i-ple, - we U 
L many of thofe which can, are, m t^ofc lan^uag , 
marked by varying the termination of the principal 
Tb But alll all thofe other tenfe^ are m the 
Englith eked out by other auxiliary verbs, fo that 
fhe^ IS in this language fcarce even the rema.ns of a 
conjugation. I hve, I loved, loving, are all the va- 
rieties of termination which the greater part of Eng- 
lilh verbs admit of. All the different modifications 
of meaning, which cannot be expreffed by any of 
irthree°;erminations. muft be made out by differ- 
ent auxiliary verbs joined to fome one or other of 
them Two auxiliary verbs fupply all the deficien- 
cies of the French and Italian conjugations; it re- 
quires more than half a dozen to fupply thofe of the 
Englirti, which befides the ^nd poffef- 
five verbs, makesufeof A did; will, would ; Jhall, 
fljould; can, could; ma^, might. 

It is in this manner that language becomes more 
fimplein its rudiments and principles, juil in pro- 
portion as it grows more complex in its compofition. 
and tiie fame thing has happened in it, which com. 
monly happens with regard to mechanical engines. 
All (Machines are generally, when firft invented, ex- 
tremely complex in their principles, and there is oi- 
tf p a particular principle of motion for every parti- 


cular movement which, it is intended, they (houid 
perform. Succeeding improvers obferve, that one 
principle may be fo applied as to produce feveral of 
thofe movements, and thus the machine becomes 
gradually more and m.ore fimple, and produces its 
effeds with fewer wheels, and fewer principles of 
motion. In language, in the fame manner, every 
cafe of every noun, and every tenfe of every verb, 
was originally expreffed by a particular diftinc^ word, 
which fervcd for this purpofe and for no other. But 
fucceeding obfervation difcovered that one fet of 
words was capable of fupplying the place of ail that 
infinite number, and that four or five prepofitions, 
and half a dozen auxiliary verbs, were capable of 
anfwering the end of all the declenfions, and of all 
the conjugations in the ancient languages. 

But this fimplification of languages, though it 
arifes, perhaps, from fimilar caufes, has by no means 
fimilar efi^eds with the correfpondent fimplification of 
machines. The fimplification of machines renders 
them more and more perfed, but this fimplification 
of the rudiments of languages renders them more and 
more imperfedl and lefs proper for many of the pur- 
pofes of language : and this for the following reafons. 

Firfl: of all, languages are by this fimplification 
rendered more prolix, feveral words having become 
neceflary to exprefs what could have been exprefifed 
by a fingle word before. Thus the words, Dei and, 
Deo^ in the Latin, fufficiently fhow, without any ad- 
dition, what relation, the obje6l fignified is under- 
flood to fi:and in to the objedls cxpreffed by the 
other words in the fentence. But to exprefs the fame 



relation inEnglifh.and in all other modern languao-es, 
we mult make ufe of, at leaft, two words, ^id fay' 
of God, to God. So far as the declenfions are con- 
cerned, therefore, the modern languages are much 
more prolix than the ancient. The difference is ttill 
greater with regard to the conjugations. What a 
Roman exprefled by the fingle word, amavifem, an 
, Englilhman is obliged to exprefs by four different 
words, I Jhou/d have lovsd. It is unnecefliry to 
take any pains to fliow how much this orolixnefs 
muft enervate the eloquence of all modern lanr>uacres. 
How much the beauty of any exprefllon d^epends 
upon Its concfenefs, is well known to thofc who 
have any experience in compofition. 

Secondly, this fimplification of the principles of 
languages renders them lefs agreeable to the ear 
The variety of termination in the Greek and Latin, 
occafioned by their declenfions and conjugations 
give a fweetnefs to their language altogether un- 
known to ours, and a variety unknown to any other 
modern language. In point of fweetnefs, the Ita- 
lian, perhaps may furpafs the Latin, and almoft 
equal the Greek ; but in point of variety, it is greatly 
inferior to both. & " / 

(.If.^^l' '^'' fimplification, not only renders the 
iounds of our language lefs agreeable to the ear, 

as Le h. T" "' ^''°'" '''^P°^'"g f^^h found; 

as we have, in the manner that m,ght be moft agree. 

tion r. t r" "''"^ ^°'"'^^ ^° « P«"'<^"l«r firua- 
with much more beauty. In the Greek and Latin 
though the ad,ea,ve and fubftantive were feparated 



from one another, the correfpondence of their terrrir- 
nations ftill Ihowed their mutual reference, and the 
feparation did not neceffarily occafion any fort of 
confufion. Thus in the firft line of Virgil : 

^ityre tu patulce recubans fub tegjnine fagi. 

We eafily fee that tu refers to recubans^ and patul<e 
to fagi ; though the related words are feparated 
from one another by the intervention of feveral 
others : becaufe the terminations, (bowing the cor- 
refpondence of their cafes, determine their mutual 
reference. But if we were ro tranflate this line liter- 
ally into Engliib, and fay, Tityrus^ thou of fpreading 
reclining under the Jhade beech^ CEdipus himfelf could 
not make lenfe of it ; becaufe there is here no dif- 
ference of termination, to determine which fub- 
ftantive each adjective belongs to. It is the fame 
cafe with regard to verbs. In Latin the verb may 
often be placed, without an inconveniency or ambi- 
guity, in any part of the fentence. But in Englifli 
its place is almoil always precifely determined. It 
muft follow the fubjedive and precede the objedbive 
member of the phrafe in almoft all cafes. Thus in 
Latin whether you fay, Joannem verberavit RobertuSy 
or Robertus verberavit Joannem^ the meaning is pre- 
cifely the fame, and the termination fixes John to be 
the fufFerer in both cafes. But in Englifh John beat 
Robert^ and Robert beat John^ have by no means the 
fame fignification. The place therefore of the three 
principal members of the phrafe is in the Englifh, 
and for the fame reafon in the French and Italian 
languages almoft always precifely determined ; 
whereas in the ancient lano;ua;2;es a orreater latitude is 



allowed, and the place of thofe members is often, in 
a great meafure, indifferent. We mufl: have recourfe 
to Horace, in order to interpret fome parts of Mil- 
ton's literal tranflation ; 

Who n0W enjoys thee credulous' all gddy 
JVho always vacant^ always amiable 
Hopes thee'y of flatter ing gales 

are verfes which it is impofTible to interpret by any 
rules of our language. There are no rules in our 
language, by which any man could difcover, that, 
in the firft line, credulous referred to who^ and not ta 
thee^y or, that ^//^c /J referred to any thing; or, that 
in the fourth line, unmindful^ referred to who^ in the 
fecond, and not to thee in the third ; or, on the con- 
trary, that, in the fecond line always vacant^ always 
amiable, referred to thee in the third, and not to who 
in the fame line with it. In the Latin, indeed, all 
this is abundantly plain. 

§ui nunc te fruitur credulus awed, 
^i femper vacuam, femfer amabilem 
Sperat te ; nefcius aurcefallacis» 

Becaufe the terminations in the Latin determine ihc: 
reference of each adjedive to its proper fubftantive, 
which it is impofTible for any thing in the Englifh to 
do. How much this power of tranfpofing the order 
of their words mufl have facilitated the compofitior^ 
of the ancients, both in verfe and profe, can hardly 
be im.agined. That it mufl greatly have facilitated 
their verfification it is needleis to obfervc ; and m 

F f profe,^ 

426 FORMATION, ^e. 

profe, whatever beauty depends upon the arrange- 
ment and conftruction of the ieveral members of the 
period, muft to them have been acquirable with 
much more eafe, and to much greater perfedion^ 
than it can be to thofe whofe expreffion is conftant° 
ly confined by the prolixnefs, conftraint and mono» 
tony of modern languages. 




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